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Posted on 11.08.2016

Seven Ways to Reach Physicians

A couple of years ago, the Wall Street Journal asked their thought leader panel about what doctors could do to improve communication with their patients.  Experts like Yale’s Dr. Harlam Krumholz, Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Peter Pronovost, and Engender Health CEO Pamela Barnes weighed in. Here are my three favorites:

  • “Look them in the eyes.” Physician communications
  • “Listen more, talk less.”
  • “Be careful making assumptions.”

As healthcare communicators, have we turned these simple cues around and asked ourselves, “how can we improve our communication with doctors?” 

To be clear: without physicians, healthcare systems have no business.  The physician culture is unique, and the role of the physician is ever-challenging. Layer them with transient hospital administrators, medical leadership cycles, evolving strategic plans, operational changes and, lest we forget, healthcare reform.  Top those with increasing regulatory demands, the EMR and declining reimbursements.  Is it any wonder that more than half of US doctors report feeling burned out (Advisory Board, Physician Workforce, 2016)?  

That’s why healthcare communicators need a good pair of kid gloves, a little of the above-mentioned WSJ inspiration and a solid approach to hardwiring physician stakeholders into our communications ecosystem.  After all, whether we are engaging consumers, staff, patients or doctors, many of the same guiding principles apply.  Here are seven:

1) ENGAGE THEM IN PLANNING:  Advocate for the physician voice in organizational meetings; remember to extend invitations to your organization’s strategic and operational planning tables.

2) FIND OUT THEIR INTERESTS:  Appoint physician champions to an editorial board or steering committee for guiding your team’s content development efforts.

3) GET THEIR PULSE: Schedule round tables, face to face meetings and touchpoints with physician to gain insights about current affairs, EMR adoption, regulatory concerns, research initiatives, and individual and departmental achievements for additional editorial input. Don’t forget human interest profiles, too!

4) MEASURE THEIR FEEDBACK: Take time to benchmark and collect feedback via perception research.  Online or telephone surveys, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups provide meaningful, measurable insights for supporting and shaping plans across the organization.

5) SAY THANK YOU: Hardwire a thank you program for demonstrating your organization’s appreciation for physicians’ dedication and service to the organization and shared patients. Consider a spouse thank you program as an add-on.

6) CREATE MEANINGUL CONTENT: Load your arsenal with mobile-friendly and traditional communications tools that can reach physicians cross-channel – infographics, email newsletters, video, social media, executive updates, EMR tickers, and printable .pdf magazines can all be housed on a dedicated website, microsite or intranet.

7) COMMUNICATE REGULARLY AND OFTEN: Physicians are human, too, and have reading preferences that are difficult to predict.  At least three of every four physicians use their smart phones or tablets at work, and checking email is the number one reason for using them (MedCity News, 2013).

Research shows we receive more than 3,000 messages every day, so fire on as many cylinders as you can, thoughtfully, in hopes of gaining stickiness with meaning and relevance.

Share your physician communication challenges with Nicole via nicole@lovell.com.  

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