Why Internal Communications is like Driving Stick Shift

Four questions to ask before shifting gears

If you’re wondering what physicians and clinical teams really care about, you may be surprised to hear that it’s not your latest business initiative. Advancing your provider organization hinges on full engagement from clinical teams, especially when you consider that they drive the majority of quality and cost improvements.

ReviveHealth’s most recent research on physicians and clinical staff offers a lens into the minds – and hearts – of the stakeholders that are most critical to your transformation success. 

The healthcare industry is undergoing immense change. Health system and health technology leaders feel the need to operate in high gear — in a constant state of reinvention. This pressure-cooker environment makes it more important than ever to cultivate a culture of partnership, built on trust and a shared vision through a thoughtful, planned internal engagement approach. 

So, what’s the best way to get to full throttle?

On a recent trip home to visit family, I was reminded of my early days learning how to drive a stick-shift on Pittsburgh’s steep, narrow streets. Anyone who shares the white-knuckle experience of stalling their car on a hill while waiting for the light to turn green understands the value of mastering the clutch. 

Changing gears requires disengaging the power flow from the engine to the transmission. It’s your moment in time to understand conditions, prepare for your next move, and engage with purpose. 

That moment in time is important — and all-too-often organization leadership shifts gears without considering the real effects of that change on physicians and clinical staff, who are often teetering on the edge of abandoning buy-in. Changing gears is about using an engine’s power in different ways to match changing conditions. That’s actually a great way to think about internal communications. So, as you engage the clutch on your next change initiative, ask yourself these questions.

Do you have an authentic higher purpose?
Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves; to have meaning. Caring for people’s health is a calling for physicians and clinicians. Use their passion as fuel to ensure your business interests serve a higher purpose.

Are you engaging physicians and clinical staff in the right initiatives?
This audience told us they most want to influence clinical workflow and clinical documentation – because improvements in these areas will make their work more rewarding and free them up to do what really matters to them: provide the best they can for their patients. Patient experience, a critical agenda item for every hospital or health system, is an area physicians and the clinical team believe they are overwhelmingly responsible for providing. That’s a great foundation for partnership.

Have you communicated a compelling story that answers “what’s in it for me?”
Skeptical by nature, physicians and clinicians are driven by data and data helps them get them on board. Your business case should demonstrate the value physicians and clinicians will derive from their engagement and should define a shared vision, clear expectations, and what success looks like for all. According to our research, physicians and clinical staff do not rank hospital leadership very high on their list, when it comes to who may be able to drive their priorities or alleviate their challenges — so demonstrating that you truly understand their situation becomes very important. 

Are you using the best, most credible channels to reach them?
Tapping into your organization’s clinical change agents is a great way to leverage peers to help carry your message in a credible way. Getting to physicians and clinical staff “where they are” is also important, so take your message on the road and target your efforts to be present when and where it matters. You’ll likely get some early wins and gain momentum.

In times of rapid change, it’s even more important to look for – and to create – opportunities to pause before you engage. A solid internal communication strategy, which constantly surfaces these four questions, will give you the ability to motivate and inspire employees and clinical teams, especially when it comes to moving teams along through change.

August 16, 2019
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