A dance in anger: physician responses to changes in practice. (Physician Anger).
Thomas Marr, MD, writing in The Physician Executive describes the Pinata Syndrome, a physician disorder characterized by anger, griping, sniping, resistance, outrage, melancholy, and other signs of loss. (1) Marr reports that nearly half of the physicians surveyed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune/Harvard Physician Survey believe the Minnesota health care system has become worse in the past year: half think the quality of medicine has declined; and a third believe that health plans are the cause of the decline. Nearly half of the doctors surveyed would not advise a qualified college student to pursue medicine as a career.
Levin reported a survey of 30,000 physicians encompassing 150 health plans in 22 metropolitan areas. (2) Nearly seven in ten expressed dissatisfaction with health care management organizations, and nearly half said they "often think about leaving clinical practice."
Daugird and Spencer proposed a "grief model" approach for assessing and understanding the physicians' reactions to the health care revolution. (3) The authors list 11 potential kinds of losses that physicians are experiencing. They are loss of: (1) financial security, (2) status and prestige, (3) independent clinical decision-making, (4) independent clinical resource allocation, (5) the option of small group independent practice, (6) power in hospital governance, (7) freedom of choice in practice location, (8) freedom of choice of specialty, (9) physician collegiality, (10) physician-patient relationship, and (11) autonomy. They then use the Kubler-Ross grieving model to help understand their responses to those losses. The model describes five stages--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Manifestations of these stages can be seen in many health care settings. Physicians who have moved through denial see their losses and future threats clearly. Anger and frustration commonly result.
Successful leaders are finding ways to address the signs, symptoms, and a few causes of the grief reaction. Health care CEOs continue to place the search for solutions, physician-hospital integration, and the alignment of system and physician incentives as their number one strategic priority. (4) One-third of hospital CEOs selected physician-hospital integration as their most important route to building market influence in a 1998 KPMG study. This article reviews common sources of anger and identifies potential solutions.
Managed care--the physician's lament
Although "managed care" means different things to different people, it has become an icon for health care change and is commonly cited as the principle cause for the physician's lament. Seventy percent of 30,000 physicians surveyed in the JD Powers and Associates study claim to be "anti-managed care." (5)
Hadley studied the effects of HMO penetration and growth on physician satisfaction with practice. (6) His nationwide survey studied 4,373 physicians under the age of 45 years in 1991 and found that when HMO market share doubled, physicians worked slightly fewer annual hours and saw 13.7 percent fewer patients per week However, there was a 20 percent greater likelihood of the physician's dissatisfaction with the practice.
Feldman and Gracely evaluated the effects of managed care on physician-patient relationships, quality of care, and ethics. (7) Slightly more than 1,000 primary care physicians in Pennsylvania were surveyed with a response rate of 55 percent. The authors concluded that under managed care, physicians are less able to avoid conflicts of interest and "less able to place the best interests of patients first." A significant minority (27- 49 percent) noted a decrease in the physician's ability to carry out ethical obligations like preserving patient autonomy and confidentiality. Their study concludes that many physicians believe managed care has significant negative effects on the doctor-patient relationship. However, at least one other study of physicians found that managed care penetration had little effect on the relationship. (8)
Managed care's financial incentives and physician compensation plans may also affect behavior and the doctor-patient relationship. Writing about money, trust, and health plans, Gould observed that all payment methodologies contain incentives for achieving a certain style of care and that this financial relationship with health plans could adversely effect the physician-patient relationship. Trust may be diminished; motivation may be suspect. She concludes that the traditional safeguards of disclosure, professionalism, and competition may not be enough to avoid true conflicts of interest. (9)
The power of incentives for primary care physicians in California was surveyed by Grumbach et al. (10) More than half of the physicians surveyed felt pressured by the managed care organizations to limit referrals: 17 percent believe that this implicit directive compromised care. Three fourths felt pressured to see more patients during the day and 24 percent of them felt that this increase in volume compromised quality. The authors conclude that production incentives can compromise care in the opinion of the treating physicians.
Despite their presumed influence, financial incentives are not always successful in achieving a preferred pattern of behavior, however. Hillman reported on the effect that financial incentives had in achieving physician compliance with new cancer screening guidelines in a Medicaid HMO. Despite financial incentives and feedback reporting, behavior did not change. (11)
In addition to losing control over aspects of clinical decision-making, physicians may have also lost control over many operating decisions within their practices. Integrated delivery systems promised great benefits for aligning hospital and physician interests: Seamless care, clinical information management, investment in prevention, long-term savings from improved community health, and a stronger negotiating position. Many clinicians sold their practices to hospitals and health systems. Others sold to practice management companies, as the influence of Wall Street became personal. Either strategy, Integration or divestiture, carried price tags of more limited control and influence over daily operations.
Even those who have retained their practices may feel disenfranchised as their local power is eroded by hospital mergers, acquisitions, and the growth of multi-state systems. Historical incomes are at risk by third party negotiations--payers may bypass local fee agreements through silent PPOs, further diminishing the physician's involvement. Specialists may feel threatened by the emergence of primary care physicians as the guardians of capitation and the foundation for Integrated systems. Each vies for their "fair" share of the capitated dollar. Collegiality hangs in the balance.
Not all financial pressures can be attributed to managed care. The fear of losing existing patients to any competing health plan, of losing future patients for non-participation in a plan, Medicare's control over pricing, the financial risk of going at risk, new competitors, and the significant power of payers to affect income further catalyze the reaction.
Challenges to physician status
Physician status has suffered. The power, ethics, authority, and knowledge of physicians is no longer without question. Scandals within health care have been widely published; episodes of fraud and malfeasance have become more commonly publicized. Consumerism challenges the sanctity of physicians' decision-making and the profession's copyright on the knowledge base.
The Internet, for example, provides instant access to knowledge bases that are unparalleled in practice. And there is so much information available: 209 sites for asthma on Yahoo alone. Band-Aids and Blackboards[TM] offers specialty expertise to children living with chronic illnesses. "Yukiest Site on the Internet"[TM] teaches about the body in kid speak. (12) Complementary and alternative medicine have options that attract 34 percent of the care-seeking public. (13)
While these pressures have little to do with "managed care," they add to the speed and breadth of changes affecting doctors, their practices, and their relationship with patients.
Lastly, for some, there must be a deep sense of a dream turned nightmare. The lofty visions and missions, so highly revered in medical school, have proven illusory in the light of a tough market of conflicting goals. Marr quotes a physician afflicted with the pinata syndrome, "It's a joyless practice where everyone is taking a swing at me." (1)
Physicians may have many reasons to be unhappy and angry. But, not all of them are. Disenchantment varies by specialty, by region, and by stage of HMO development. A study of Dane County (Wisconsin) compared physician satisfaction with the extensive HMO penetration of the region over a seven-year period. (14) Simon, Dranove, and White report that more doctors were supportive of the HMO in 1993 than in 1985 and that two thirds are "satisfied with he work situation." They also found the primary care physicians to be significantly more satisfied than the specialists, presumably because they have more clinical freedom. A few advocated managed care's growth for its benefit to patients and physicians alike. Speaking at a national symposium on the delivery of health care, Bob Jamplis, MD, of the Palo Alto Clinic, recommended that young physicians join a large clinic where most of the patients are capitated--and the doctors are both on salary and at risk. (15)
Actual or perceived threats to professional income from managed care contracting may not be realized. Indeed, some providers have actually improved their financial position. States with the largest growth in managed care plans and penetration also saw the biggest growth in primary care physician income, whereas the income of hospital-based physicians (radiologists, anesthesiologists, and pathologists) saw very small gains. (16) Acceptance, if not satisfaction with HMOs, may also be a function of specialty and HMO market stage development. Because of their relative monopoly within the hospital, hospital-based physicians, for example, may be the last to accept capitation, and do so only after the HMO market has reached stage III (17) (15 - 25 percent HMO market penetration).
Strategies for dealing with the anger
What can be done to ease the pain? What responsibilities do hospitals, physicians, systems, and groups have to develop strategies for dealing with the anger and for finding solutions? What can be done to restore a balance of power between the major protagonists?
Five strategies are emerging. Not all are equally as attractive or equally acceptable to the principle stakeholders. Some are quite threatening to traditional relationships, but together offer a menu for development.
1. Recognize the issues, causes, signs, and symptoms
Deal with the anger, grief, and loss reactions in an open, non-judgmental, and deliberate manner. Talk about it. Recognize the five stages of the grief; acknowledge the anger-work to reestablish elements of control and a sense of security. Where possible, provide choices.
2. Restore balance and power
Physician involvement in all aspects of decision-making within the enterprise can be crucial to restoring a sense of involvement and control. At the managed care contracting level, representative physicians should be directly involved in all contract negotiations between purchasers and the provider system. Minutes, without pricing information, can be sent to all members of the PHO/HMO provider panels to assure their informed involvement in the contracting that so directly affects their financial well-being.
Silent PPOs are a source of aggravation because of their ability to access physicians and hospitals through brokered contracts, often at deeply discounted rates. Any advantages of face-to-face discussions are lost--the physician's services become a commodity. Special attention should be paid to informing each party in the provider equation of what contracts are in play, what their terms are, and which ones can be jointly agreed upon.
Implement total quality management teams with payers--teams that include physicians from the provider panel--to educate and learn from each other. Swedish American Health System has found that industry, particularly self-insured purchasers, greatly values the participation and dialogue of knowledgeable physicians agreeing to join them in developing a better service. The give-and-take has benefited all stakeholders.
Some physicians have sought to regain power through new physician organizations. A few have sought National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certification as collective-bargaining units to assert their solutions to staffing, compensation, control, and decision making problems. Rockford Health System physicians ultimately moved back from that abyss after concerns for patient care, organizational structure. and compensation were satisfied. (18) The American Medical Association agreed to pay a portion of the legal bills, consistent with its June meeting's 'overwhelming' approval of a resolution requiring the AMA to adopt a negotiating unit within organized medicine. (19) From California comes the idea that medical management companies, owned and operated by doctors and other providers, could replace HMOs. (20)
3. New economic partnerships
The Advisory Board Company cautions that "the first order of business for hospitals resolved to improve relations is providing flawless service; absent efficient operations, other strategies are unlikely to prevent specialist defections. ..to for-profit ventures. "2 Wall Street's availability of equity capital, expertise, focus, and profit has created attractive options for specialty physicians and softened the center of the hospitals' strategies. Indeed, the Advisory Board characterizes the state of specialist-hospital relations as precarious, as the former have sought competitive options for replacing lost income and control in the shadows of Wall Street. The Board offers several options for developing equity partnership
* Procedure gain sharing agreements
* Specialist service line management contracts
* Outpatient center joint ventures
* Specialty hospital joint ventures
* Hospital-within-a-hospital partnerships
* Specialty marketing
Stark I and II, federal anti-kickback statues, state and federal tax laws, and state certificate of need regulations may make some or all of these options imprudent or impossible. Nevertheless, the Board reports that searches for effective, ethical, and legal means of aligning physician-hospital incentives remain their most frequent research topic.
Like the primary care physicians who preceded them, specialists may now seek hospital employment. Towers and Perrin reports that specialists are increasingly seeking employment by large, not-for-profit systems or developing new business relationships, such as co-managing hospital-based clinical programs. (22)
Additional benefits include being able to participate in gainsharing programs that are offered to other employees. Targets for gainsharing can be directed to those goals most critical to the strategic plan of the organization. Swedish American Health System, for example, has targeted financial, quality, and patient satisfaction goals.
Managed care organizations can realign incentives as well. Those that depend on quality and increasing physician access to patient panels help stabilize income. Health systems, hospitals, and medical groups position themselves to attract additional patients through specialty "outreach" programs and services. Telemedicine offers the promise of extending expertise more efficiently. New services that conserve resources and improve health might be added, for example collaborative clinics for chronic disease management. Patient satisfaction goals create greater physician job satisfaction than those that depend on productivity and referral management. (10)
Steps to improve office efficiency are rated highly by physicians. Electronic medical record capability, computerized scheduling, access to the hospital record from a home-based PC, and reviewing digitized images by remote PC have been effective in improving patient care and quality, while decreasing the hassle factors." In some systems "hospitalists" have become employed to increase efficiency in the primary care office and they frequently decrease the hospital cost per case. (23)
4. Realign the relationship and develop status
An organization's culture can be developed and managed. Agree on a values statement and reward those behaviors and outcomes most respected by the organization. Create heroes and heroines who exemplify the mission, vision, and values of the enterprise. Tell stories about them. Telling stories that create pictures may be the most effective way of communicating mission, vision, values and strategy. It is an effective tool for communicating. learning, listening and healing. (24) Storytelling offers an additional approach to dealing with loss and grieving. Reward and award.
5. Educate one another and develop leadership
Despite the prevalence of managed care, the significant media coverage of its deficits and physician concerns for it, the physician's knowledge of the matter may be scanty. Florida physicians knowledge of health care reform and managed care options within the state was remarkably low given the emotion and publicity attached to reform movements. (25) The Advisory Board found that very few health systems offer formal courses in managing either the care or the money. (26) They suggest starting a formal program of education tailored to the regional market and its own stage of development. Successful programs have been offered directly through PHOs, where all member participants have a common interest. They should be open to all providers in the PHO and free to participants to be effective.
Physicians evolving towards or being stampeded into positions of leadership may be poorly prepared for the responsibilities. Programs of the American College of Physician Executives, developing local formal mentoring programs, onsite training for physician leaders, creating (and funding) a leadership training and development track, and identifying the specific skill sets needed by the enterprise should be considered.
The Illinois Hospital and Health Systems Association created the Physician-Hospital Institute to study ways of succeeding in physician-hospital integration. The processes of problem-solving within five major Illinois integrated health systems were evaluated. The preliminary study demonstrated that some problems have not lent themselves to "conventional" methods of resolution. There were problems without solutions. The parties are now studying how Barry Johnson's principles of Polarity Management, as used in other industries such as Amoco and WL Gore, can be applied to the health care industry. (27) Identifying and managing seemingly unsolvable problems may indeed be the challenge for health care leaders.
"In a fight between you and the world, bet on the world," said Kafka. It's unlikely that any of the major trends that are revolutionizing local markets will ebb, let alone reverse. The practice of medicine has forever changed, and its delivery system is in transition to yet some other form. The anger will not dissipate soon or easily. Yet, we note that:
* The anger and resentment has a life cycle and process. There can be resolution.
* Not all providers are angry about either health care's revolution or about managed care.
* It appears to be a function of the developmental stage of the HMO market and the specialty of the physician. It may be a highly local variable.
Each health care leader, therefore, has the opportunity to manage the unsolvable.
(1.) Marr, T.J. The Pinata Syndrome, The Physician Executive, July/August. 1998, pp. 20-22.
(2.) Levin, A. Physicians Dissatisfied with Managed care: Studyfinds, National Underwriter, 102(42), October 19, 1998, pp. 11, 29.
(3.) Daugird, A., & Spencer, D. Physician Reaction to the Health care Revolution. A Grief Model Approach, Archives of Family Medicine, October 5, 1996, pp. 497-501.
(4.) KPMG, "Equal Footing: The Hospital CEO Perspective on Balancing Market Power." October, 1998.
(5.) Leonard, B. Majority of Doctors Dislike Managed care, HR Magazine, 43(12), November 1998, pp. 30-32.
(6.) Hadley, J. & Mitchell, J.M. Effects of Market Penetration on Physician's Work Effort and Satisfaction, Health Affairs (Millwood), 16(6), Nov-Dec, 1997, pp. 99-111.
(7.) Feldman, D.S., Novack, D.H., Gracely, E. Effects of Managed care on Physician-Patient Relationships, Quality of Care, and the Ethical Practice of Medicine: A Physician Survey. Archives of Internal Medicine, 158(15), August 10-24, 1998, pp. 1626-1632.
(8.) Remler, K.D., Donelan, K., et al. What Do Managed Care Plans Do to Affect Care? Results From a Survey of Physicians. Inquiry 34(3), Fall 1997, pp. 196-204.
(9.) Gould, S.D. Money and Trust: Relationships between Patients, Physicians and Health Plans, Illlinois Health Policy and Law 23(4), August 1998, pp. 687-695.
(10.) Grumbach, K., Osmond, D., Vranizan, K., Jaffe, D., Bindman, A.B. Primary Care Physicians Experience of Financial Incentives in Managed Care Systems, The New England Journal of Medicine, 339(21) Nov. 19, 1998, pp. 1516-1521.
(11.) Hillman, A.L., Pipley, K., Goldfarb, N., Nuamah, I., Weiner, J., Lusk, E. Physician Financial Incentives and Feedback: Failure to Increase Cancer Screening in Medicaid Managed Care. American Journal of Public Health, 88(11), Nov. 1998, pp. 1699-1701.
(12.) Petersen, A. Just What the Doctor Ordered, The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1998.
(13.) Eisenberg, D.M. et al, Unconventional Medicine in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine. January 28, 1993, pp. 246-252.
(14.) Schultz, R., Scheckler, W.E., Moberg, D.P., Johnson, P.R. Changing Nature of Physician Satisfaction with Health Maintenance Organizations and Fee-For-Service Practices, Journal of Family Practice, 45(5) October, 1997, pp. 321-330.
(15.) Jamplis, R.W. HMOs and Managed Care: Doctor-Patient Relationships, Vital Speeches, 64(16) June 1, 1998, pp. 492-493.
(16.) Simon, C.J., Dranove, D., White, W.D. The Impact of Managed Care on the Physician Marketplace, Public Health Reporter, 112(3), May/June, 1997, pp. 222-230.
(17.) Health Care Advisory Board, "Hospital Relationships with Hospital-Based Physicians in Stage III Managed Care Markets," January 1998 (001-194-212).
(18.) Lowes, R.L. Strength in Numbers: Could Doctor Unions Really Be the Answer? Medical Economics, 75(12), June 29, 1988, pp. 114.
(19.) Maybe It's Time To Organize--But It Won't Be Easy. American Medical News, 41(28), July 27, 1998, pp. 16.
(20.) Hariton, T.N. A New Model For Managing Care, Managed Care, Dec. 1998, pp. 28-34.
(21.) Health Care Advisory Board, "Holding the Center. Recovering Specialty Care at America's Leading Health Systems," 1998.
(22.) The Next Wave of Health System Consolidations, Integration Advisory, 6(12), Dec. 1998, pp. 28 - 34.
(23.) Developing A Hospitalist Program. Learning From The Leaders, Newton, MA: Cambridge Health Resources, 1998.
(24.) Stone, R. The Healing Art of Storytelling, New York: Hyperion, 1996.
(25.) Deckard, G.J., McCoy, H.V. Physician Perceptions of Health Care Reform: National versus State Knowledge, Input and Support, Journal of Health and Social Politics, 8(4), 1997, pp. 1-12.
(26.) Health Care Advisory Board, "Educating Physicians Regarding Managed Care." January 1995.
(27.) Johnson, B. Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems, Amherst, MA: Harold Press, 1996.
RELATED ARTICLE: SORUCES OF GRIEF.
* Constraints on clinical practice
* Outside reviews and accountability
* Involvement of paraprofessionals and nurses in clinical judgement process
* Altered forms and processes of reimbursement
* Restricted resources for patient care
* Distorted doctor-patient relationship Diminishment of professionalism
2 Restore balance and power
* physician involvement
* collective bargaining
* physician ownership
3 New partnerships
* flawless service
* management contract
* joint ventures
* specialty employment
* new services
* office efficiencies
* culture management
5 Educate and develop
* career development
* polarity management
Executive Coaching An Rx for MDs
The new realities of medical economics, characterized by issues of managed care, government regulations, shrinking reimbursements, competition, and frequent litigation, are forcing physicians to demonstrate more skills than clinical judgement alone. Unfortunately, interpersonal communication, leadership, conflict resolution, relationship management, career progress, negotiation, change, and strategic thinking are not part of a doctor's medical school curriculum.
Physicians who have not had to face these issues are now presented with an environment for which they lack expertise. The fiercely independent personality that supported physicians in their trials in the education system and the medical world of the past is not as valuable today. Some may believe that getting physicians to cooperate with each other is like trying to herd cats.
This is an era of unsurpassed need for cooperation between physicians, as well as with others in the medical arena. Physicians may not have a clear idea as to what makes their lives so difficult and uncomfortable, and certainly little opportunity to obtain the understanding and skills required to function in this tumultuous environment. In general, physicians are struggling with the changes in their professional lives and, until recently have had few options to assist them.
Health systems cannot succeed without their physicians also experiencing success in their practices. Many organizations have tried to help physicians cope with the morass of change they encounter. They have tried running physician's practices, employing physicians, arranging managed care contracts, and many other supportive endeavors in the hopes of enabling physicians to remain competitive and successful. Some hospitals now lose millions of dollars every year in these efforts. This does not teach the physician the skills needed to deal with the environmental forces of change occurring in medicine.
Some hospital executives have begun to look at the personal development of the physicians themselves. They have hired executive coaches to aid individual physicians that they regard as key or potential leaders. An executive coach can assist the physician in a confidential exploration of the role of physician as leader, whether in private practice, as a member of a physician group, or in his or her efforts to undertake administrative responsibility. Beyond the benefits of having a confidante, executive coaches have specific leadership, development, and personal growth knowledge. They provide a noncompetitive and objective environment for the physician to explore concerns and barriers to understanding and altering his or her style of interpersonal interactions.
When physicians develop a certain level of mastery and experience success in their collaborative endeavors, they develop confidence in their ability to lead. They discover that they can help others to achieve self-actualizing goals in their lives, a tenant of transformational leadership. Physicians individually and collectively may find that they lack the ability to control their environment and may feel at the mercy of others in related areas of the medical sphere. This mastery allows them to interact more effectively and feel they have greater control over their destiny.
At a mid-point in a doctor's career, or in response to important life or career change, an executive coach can further assist in self-exploration. Advancing age may bring on a feeling of obsolescence about one's technical and interpersonal skills. Diminished career flexibility may also be a concern. These issues can be resolved through career action plans and careful tracking of each coaching session. Setting goals and identifying the steps to attain them, as well as creating a balance through meaningful selection of goals, is an important part of the coaching process. The one-on-one continuous supportive nature of the executive coaching relationship can provide the needed encouragement, confidence, and guidance towards implementing and reaching the physician's goals.
Executive coaching provides necessary feedback towards progress of goals and provides a safe setting in which to express ideas and perceptions to an interpersonal communication expert Conflict resolution or relationship management skills need to be tried on before being brought into the workplace. The coach can provide role-playing opportunities and can be used as a consultant for emergent communication issues involving patients, office staff, peers, nurses, and administrators.
According to Gregory G. Repetti, Executive Vice President and COO of Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet, Illinois, the need for physician leaders has never been greater:
"The ability of physicians to become strategic thinkers, to integrate an organization's needs with those of the clinicians, and to lead an enterprise is becoming key to a health system's success. The use of executive coaching can effectively augment formal leadership training programs for physicians. The coaching process allows for an easier transition of skills learned in the classroom to the front lines in the hospital or system setting."
An Rx for MDs
Overall, physicians need to become more skilled in collaborative behavior. These skills are necessary as physicians have a unique perspective in the medical field that cannot be fully understood by any other medically related professionals. The need for physician leadership in health care systems has never been higher. Physicians are obligated to become skilled in the collaborative arena in order to promote appropriate decisions that affect their patients and themselves. Executive coaching is a new, unique, and useful tool for physicians to utilize in meeting the physician leadership demands of the millennium.
Steven K. Sauerberg, MD, is a practicing physician and President of the Family Medical Center of LaGrange, Illinois. He also serves as President of Participating Physicians Group, Ltd. and can be reached by calling 708/482-8088 or via email at SKSMD@aol.com.
Kathleen Prunty, MBA, is President of Executive Advantage Inc., a consulting firm specializing in executive coaching for executives and physicians, with offices in LaGrange. River Forest, and Palos Hills, Illinois. She is a Registered Organization Development Professional with the Organization Development Institute and is a faculty member at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. She can be reached by calling 708/430-8797 or via email at ExecAdvan@aol.com.
Robert B. Klint, MD, MHA, FACPE, is President and CEO of SwedishAmerican Health System in Rockford, Illinois. He can be reached by calling 315/489-4000 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Author:||Klint, Robert B.|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1999|
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