<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

The Keys to Improving Physician Communication

January 1, 2016


physician-communication.jpgWe continue to implement more physician selection and development projects. Our clients recognize that more is expected of physicians in an era of healthcare reform, but they don’t always begin their practice with the behavioral and leadership skills needed by their group or their employer – and we’ve not, historically, given them the tools to be successful. We’ve been working for several years on strategies and tools based on what we know works with highly intelligent, valuable professionals and executives – but adapted to the unique needs of physicians, and healthcare organizations. They’ve been well-received. In spite of a history of resistance to change, this is one area where physicians, themselves, are recognizing the problem and lobbying for solutions.

The projects have included, for instance:

  • A new approach to the physician interview – continuing to focus on the candidate experience, but also gleaning information about the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and work style.

  • Using our new Select Assessment for Physicians behavioral assessment during the on-boarding process to get a baseline on the relevant behavioral competencies – a baseline that can form the basis of an individual development plan. We even have clients starting to use this tool during the recruiting process.

  • Using our Executive Assessment and Leadership Platform to evaluate potential physician leaders, and to understand strengths and weaknesses of current leaders. We’ve facilitated some engaging workshops, for instance, where we look at the strengths and weaknesses of a group of physician leaders, as whole, and how they impact the group’s performance, and organizational success – and identifying concrete operational changes.

There is a growing awareness that these behavioral skills are critical to physician, and organizational, success. We had a great turnout for a recent webinar on the role of emotional intelligence, summarized by our friends at Becker’s Hospital Review.

Our expertise is assessment. Our tools help physicians to understand and predict behavioral tendencies. This is the critical first step. There is still a shortage, however, of proven strategies to improve physician behavioral skills. With that in mind, I wanted to share this interesting article from Dr. Alan Rosenstein, MD, MBA: i to i vs. Eye to Eye: Best Strategies to Improve Communication in Healthcare.

Dr. Rosenstein is a leading authority on physician behaviors and performance. He joined the panel on our recent webinar. In this article from the CAHQ Journal he makes some key observations about physician communication skills:

  • Successful patient care is dependent on physician communication on many levels – with patients and families, other physicians, nursing and other clinical staff.

  • Communication skills are heavily influenced by the medical education process where there is a hint of a “hazing” process and laser focus on knowledge, technical competence and independent study – leading to an “autocratic style of control and command behavior.”

  • Many organizations (and physicians) are doing a better job evaluating “cultural fit” – ensuring that there is a match of expectations and approach to patient care and communication.

  • Physicians need a broader understanding of the organization’s goals and the impact of communication on patient care.

  • Physician engagement and satisfaction have a critical influence.

He goes on to make some clear recommendations on how to improve communication skills and strategies. What’s promising is that some medical schools are placing an emphasis on communication and behavioral skills, but these programs are still in their infancy. We are working with our clients to develop programs to routinely evaluate behavioral skills and implement some form of individual development plans – like we do with any executive, and to commit more resources to organization-wide discussion and training on these behavioral skills.

You can learn more about Dr. Rosenstein and his work by clicking here.



Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.