It's a tough challenge to engage academic physicians in managing the health of an enrolled patient population.
Doctors traditionally have been trained to deal with the patient in front of them. Changing their focus to population health requires a different mindset. That's even more true for academic medical center doctors, who are steeped in teaching hospital traditions, or who may see clinical operations merely as a backup funding source for their research and education missions.
But some academic medical center leaders are finding innovative ways of working with their doctors to make their organizations more competitive in today's cost-conscious healthcare market. They are also getting their faculty physicians to collaborate with community-based doctors in new payment and delivery models such as accountable care organizations.
Joe Landsman, CEO of the 600-bed University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, said involving physicians in all major strategies and change processes is key. That collaboration has enabled his center to implement its clinical standardization and quality-improvement efforts. “It really starts with development of physician leaders,” said Landsman, whose operation includes 615 doctors, of whom only 158 are medical center employees.
A critical component has been his center's Physician Leadership Academy. It began as a 10-month educational program developed in partnership with the University of Tennessee business school that physicians attended for a half day each month. It has since evolved into a three-year program. “It gives them a wider base of knowledge than the world they live in, on the state of the industry and why transformation is necessary,” Landsman said.