Studer Spotlight: The Fundamentals of Emergency Department Physician Leadership

Posted on Thu, Sep 24, 2015
Studer Spotlight: The Fundamentals of Emergency Department Physician Leadership

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By Josh Kosowsky, M.D., FACEP

We know solid physician leadership creates results that last. However, many emerging leaders start their career in healthcare or transition into a new leadership role without the skills needed to succeed. The good news is that these skills can be acquired.

Emergency Department Physician leaders require skills such as how to interpret and impact patient experience data, integrate with hospital operations and build accountability within their team. Through our work with emergency departments and thousands of leaders, Studer Group has identified the skills that separate the best physician leaders in healthcare from the rest.

  1. Explain the why. The healthcare industry is in a constant state of change. As a physician leader, it’s your job to help other providers become more comfortable with and adapt to change quickly. That’s why we coach leaders to always start with “the why”. By explaining why we’re rolling out a new initiative or implementing a new procedure, staff gain the reason behind the change first. Then you can share what the process looks like and how it will make an impact. Be sure to share what’s in it for the patient but also, what’s in it for the provider.

  2. Role model the change. We find that physicians and staff are more likely to change when the physician leaders they trust demonstrate the behavior. For example, if tactics such as AIDET® and Rounding for Outcomes have been rolled out, physician leaders should also use the tactics to support a culture of service. One tip is to huddle with your team at the start of each day to convey expectations, drive a collaborative relationship and create a shared effort.

  3. Round on physicians. When physician leaders round on other providers it establishes sincere communication and partnership between both leader and physician. We recommend scheduling a time at the provider’s convenience when a one-on-one meeting can be held, and physician leaders should have set questions to structure the meeting. One of the most impactful questions we suggest leaders ask providers is “What can I do for you?” This further demonstrates the physician leader’s level of caring and respect.

  4. Measure performance and share data. We often find that physicians are “knowledge rich but data poor”. In this age of transparency with data being publically reported on the Hospital Compare and Physician Compare websites, we have access to valuable information readily available. During one-on-one meetings, physician leaders should review the individual data but also comparative data as well. A dashboard is a great way to track and trend results, as well as identify the biggest opportunities for improvement. Then, identify one or two objectives to focus on moving forward.

  5. Reward and recognize behavior. As a physician leader, you may at times feel like you spend more time putting out “fires” and fixing problems than anything else. It’s important, however, to focus on what’s working well and reinforce good behavior when you see it happen. This is especially important when we’re asking individuals to change a behavior or rolling out that new procedure. Taking time to say “thank you”, both verbally and in hand-written thank you notes, sharing positive patient comments, providing an annual award or even incentive compensation are great ways to show appreciation.

These fundamentals are designed to save physician leader’s time, impact patient experiences and improve outcomes. In the process, better relationships are formed, the resistance to change is minimized and both physician leaders and providers feel a strong connection to the same goals and outcomes.

Josh Kosowsky, M.D., FACEP,  is a nationally recognized expert clinician and lecturer who serves as Vice Chair and Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. A former Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, he is currently holds an appointment as Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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