Diagnosis: Alignment

Whether it’s the latest wrinkle on laws or new technology that scans hips better, few industries are going through as much disruptions as healthcare. But experts say the industry needs a cure for a bigger but less noticed issue: alignment with doctors.

As part of a major shift in strategy, most healthcare organizations are looking for a greater emphasis on preventive or value-based healthcare but are discovering that training and incentives for the critical players in all this—the doctors—have long been in the other direction. Doctors are largely paid to see—and treat—patients and perform surgeries, as opposed to answering emails on care ahead of the illness. To date, changing resources and incentives have not worked, says Harry Greenspun, MD, Korn Ferry’s chief medical officer, managing director of the firm’s Healthy Solutions practice, and author of a new report, “Physician Alignment Strategy. “Despite good intentions, an organization might make a number of changes in an attempt to achieve greater alignment but fail in the end anyway.”

That alignment is more important than ever. With the exception of maybe retail, no sector has seen as much upheaval as the healthcare industry. In the last few years, organizations big and small have been changing business models, adapting to new regulatory pressures, and facing a competitive assault from technology firms that have decided to enter healthcare. In the rush to meet the challenges, many healthcare executives have been implementing multiple strategies with little regard as to how they interconnect.

It’s been particularly challenging on the relationship between doctors and health systems. The value-based operating model, which is making its way throughout healthcare, rewards healthcare professionals in a considerably different way than the existing fee-for-service system.

In the report, co-written with colleagues Christine Rivers, PhD, and Chris Rowe, Greenspun describes the systematic way to get physicians on the same page as their organizations. It starts at the top with the organization’s leaders having a shared and compelling vision. Then, leaders must thoroughly review the skills of individual practitioners, followed by a look at the organization’s workflows, culture, and incentives. Only when all of those are set up can the organization execute a sustainable strategy, Greenspun says.

Along the way, healthcare leaders must communicate effectively with the practitioners. Physicians, clinicians, and employees must be mobilized around a shared strategy and purpose, Greenspun says. “The focus must be on people and the organization to achieve the intended outcomes and success.”

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