Anatomy of an Engaged Clinical Community

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Recent UH initiatives help boost engagement among our physicians and providers

By Cliff Megerian, MD, FACS
President, UH Physician Network & System Institutes

UH Clinical Update | December 2019

Our recent UH Physician Engagement Survey showed an engagement score of 68 percent, which is a significant increase compared to the prior year. UHMG physicians had a 6 percent increase over last year. This is remarkable, and I’m very proud since even a 1 percent increase is considered significant.

Perhaps the most important indicator that we are moving in the right direction and paying particular attention to the needs of our physician community came through the question that asks whether the physician is proud to work at UH. The UHMG score for this question was up 26 percentage points from 2018-2019.

This did not occur by chance. It happened through open dialogue and because we listened. And we continue to listen sincerely and take action where we can. Yes, there is still significant room for improvement -- in how physicians perceive our work environment, and how UH is responding to individual and collective needs. I guarantee we will continue to make these areas our focus.

Let’s review some of the programs that have been instituted in the past few years, many of which may explain the boost in our engagement numbers and the pride so many of you have in working at UH.

Your passion in providing the most compassionate care, and your innovative spirit ensuring that we deliver the most advanced therapies, inspire all of us.

That’s why in 2017 we increased efforts to ensure our physicians are rewarded and recognized for their contributions. We implemented many initiatives, one highlight being the Distinguished Physician program, which was inaugurated last year. Our second class was inducted and honored on Nov. 12.

We’ve created a number of pathways for personal and professional advancement in the leadership realm. Thanks to those of you who are mentoring your colleagues, supporting their growth and development and have nominated peers for the prestigious Anton fellowship program. The creation of several advisory councils and committees to provide leadership experience and promote two-way communication throughout UH are another reason for increased engagement. We will also be launching the first UH Physician Leadership Advancement Program in January of 2020 with 24 physicians from across our UH community.

Also in 2017, we created the position of Chief Clinical Experience Officer, and Dr. Goutham Rao has translated this into an office, a set of focused activities and a physician accomplishment newsletter - Salernitana – all of which have been well-received by our staff. We are one of the few organizations that, in addition to regular surveys, also have a week-to-week physician wellness monitor, run by Dr. Rao. This wellness meter is now showing some of the highest scores we’ve ever had. And I’m happy these results corroborate with Advisory Board survey results that we recently received.

Dr. Bill Annable also gets significant credit for his role as Clinical Engagement Officer and clinical ombudsman, through which he has shortened the pathway between perceived problems and their resolutions. Finally, Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, as Career Development Officer, has assisted many physicians with advancement. This has allowed 42 physicians to successfully navigate the academic promotion ladder this year at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Many of these initiatives and practices, including transparency, feedback, and making sure that physicians are seated at the tables when decisions are made, have been implemented by the Physician Engagement Core Committee, led by Drs. Bob Salata, Nicole Maronian, Doug Rhee and Marc Popovich.

We are listening to you, and we understand that there are still many issues to address. We strive to do better.

For example: many of us, through no fault of our own, find ourselves at times involved in an adverse medical event, error or serious safety event. We know this can have a profound impact on us and I know, having been through some of these events myself, that it would have been helpful to have peer support. For that reason, under the direction of Drs. Maronian and Rao, we have established a UH peer support system. It’s a volunteer team of 46 seasoned mid-career to senior physicians who are on call to provide confidential support during adverse events.

We know our physicians want to make sure their patients stay within the UH system, which allows us to have the most current information about their health. So we instituted a very successful Point-of-Service scheduling program; our goal is have all our patient information in our medical record system, so that no information is missing.

The great work you are doing is not going unnoticed. The community -- especially the philanthropic community – is keenly aware of this and wants to support and reward physicians who are making a difference in so many lives. Through Sherri Bishop and her team in development, we’ve been fortunate to secure significant philanthropic support to now establish more than 110 endowed clinical chairs, director or master clinician positions. These are held by physicians throughout UH, and I expect there will be many more for 2020.

Finally, as you all are aware, and as was seen again in this year’s survey, the No. 1 concern of our physicians remains the EMR. This is unchanged from the 2015 and 2017 surveys. Beginning this January, we will be conducting an in-depth analysis with a third-party to evaluate the most effective path forward to having an EMR system that will support our future growth. Many of you will be asked to join in this evaluation.

As this year closes, on behalf of the UH administration and the more than 1.3 million patients who entrust UH with their health care, I want to thank you all for your commitment to and investment in University Hospitals and the patients we serve.

Please have a wonderful, safe and joyful holiday season.

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