Archive for March, 2009

Celebrating Doctors

March 30, 2009

“More than the application of science and technology, medicine is a special calling, and those who have chosen this vocation in order to serve their fellowman understand the tremendous responsibility it entails.” With these words spoken 18 years ago, President George H. W. Bush proclaimed March 30th as the annual date to celebrate National Doctor’s Day.  Today, hospitals and patients across the nation will thank their doctors for answering the call to practice medicine. One of the best ways to say “thank you” today is to commit year-round to providing a great place for physicians to practice medicine.

Fundamentally, physicians want four things from the place where they choose to practice medicine:

  • Quality – Physicians want to know their patients are receiving quality care and very good service even when they’re not around.
  • Efficiency – Physicians want a friction-free place to practice medicine where delays, waste and frustration are minimized
  • Input – Ask physicians where they feel the organization should focus to make things run better; fix what can be fixed; and then follow-up to let them know what has been addressed.
  • Appreciation – Physicians value a “thank you” and acknowledgment when things are going well.

Most of our efforts in healthcare to engage physicians center on the first two items: quality and efficiency. This makes good sense – they’re the most tangible and have the most ability to quickly impact outcomes for physicians, patients and the hospital. However, too often we neglect the last two: input and appreciation. That’s unfortunate, since these are the lowest cost, quickest to implement and most sincere ways to demonstrate professional respect and involve physicians in the hospital enterprise. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Focus, fix, and follow-up. All three are key steps to providing physicians a great place to practice medicine, but failure to follow-up is perhaps the fastest way to breakdown the relationship physicians have with the organization. Here are two examples of how to provide physicians opportunities for input that lend themselves to quick follow-up.
    • Ask physicians to list three issues that act as barriers in the delivery of care for their patients at the hospital. Be sure to also ask them for a potential solution to the problem. Based on the information you collect, publish a simple one-page flyer that lists the issue raised and the action taken.
    • You can create even faster follow-up by using a simple tool like a flipchart or a whiteboard posted in a common area. For example, the OR manager could post a flipchart on a door leading out of the OR with a marker attached by a string. In one column provide a place for physicians to list their barriers, and in the other column the OR manager writes what has been/will be done to address the barrier.
  • Round on physicians. By rounding on physicians, leaders demonstrate care and concern. They will also harvest what’s working well, people to recognize, systems to improve, and tools and equipment that need to be addressed. Here are some questions to ask physicians during rounds:
    • Focus on the Positive: “What is going well today?”
    • Harvest Wins: “Are there any hospital staff or other physicians you feel deserve to be complimented or recognized?”
    • Identify Process Improvement Areas: “What systems can be working better?”
    • Repair and Monitor Systems: “Do you have the help and equipment that you need to care for your patients?”
  • Send thank-you notes. In a study of the top workplace incentives, the number one strategy was handwritten thank-you notes. There’s nothing difficult about the act of writing a thank-you note, but there are better ways to make them effective for physicians and to hardwire them. For example, ask each nurse leader or unit nurse to send one handwritten thank-you note to a physician’s home on a regular basis. Physicians who receive such a note typically seek out the nurse who sent it. In addition to delighting the physicians and strengthening their connection with the nurse who wrote the note, the specific behaviors mentioned in the note will be reinforced. Let the CEO know who is being thanked and why so she can extend her appreciation the next time she sees the physician.
  • Pass along compliments to employees on behalf of physicians. Ask physicians “What is going well?” When Dr. Johnson mentions how much he appreciated the timely lab results in recent weeks, tell the lab manager, “Dr. Johnson wanted you to know how much he appreciates your staff’s on-time lab results over the last month. Please let them know what a difference they are making for physicians.”
  • Spotlight physicians who are making a difference at board meetings. For example, the CEO might say, “Dr. Rivera came in during a day off to work with the OR team to develop surgical preference cards for physicians. This has increased efficiency and reduced costs. As the board chair, I recommend the board write a letter of appreciation to Dr. Rivera.”

In the hallways today, take a moment to say “thank you” to the physicians who practice medicine in your organization. Also commit to implementing one new behavior, perhaps one of the ideas above, that you can hardwire so that physicians know how much they are appreciated all year long.

Our mission at Studer Group is to help make health care a better place for employees to work, physicians to practice medicine and patients to receive care. The tips above come from a physician collaboration toolkit available free of charge to partner organizations on our website.  You can find the toolkit and learn more about what we’re doing to help create better places to practice medicine on this resource page:

Yours in service,



Announcing the Largest Ever Study on Health Care Leadership Skills

March 25, 2009

I’m writing to ask for your participation in an important research project within the healthcare industry. We anticipate that the findings of this study will impact how we train future health care leaders, just as the previous studies you helped us with proved the dramatic benefits of hourly rounding, identified characteristics of high performing organizations and shed light on issues of work-life blend among women in healthcare.

We are conducting what we hope will be the largest study ever of health care leadership skills. Our goal is to ensure that the next generation of leaders has the skills required to make healthcare even better. Conducted in partnership with The George Washington University, this study seeks to better understand the skills you had as an early careerist, the skills you think are most important for new leaders to possess and skills you believe will be needed in the future.

If you hold a leadership, management, or supervisory position in healthcare organizations, I invite you and/or your colleagues to take part in this study to create recommendations for actions and policies to enhance the skill sets of new healthcare leaders.

Go to and complete the survey by April 10th. The fifteen minutes of your time needed to complete the survey will impact the future of healthcare. We commit to sharing the results broadly and free of charge this summer.

The knowledge gained from the study will help schools and employers better train and retain healthcare leaders, two critical steps toward creating better places to work, practice medicine and receive care.

Every day we all have the ability to make a difference. Here’s an opportunity that will only take you 15 minutes today for results that will last generations.

Yours in service,