Sharing Opposing Perspectives Early On Helps Bridge a Growing Divide

I think we can safely agree that the relationship between a hospital and its physicians in many ways dictates an organization’s level of success. This has always been the case, yet the challenge of connecting physicians and administrators grows every year. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career is the divergence of attitudes among physicians and administrators. Due to snowballing reform and regulations, administrators have been increasingly forced to view and run a hospital as a business. At the same time, medical school and training for physicians hasn’t changed quite as substantively; they still learn to put the patient above all else.

There’s no one right answer to bridge this divide. It’s true that hospitals need to run like a business in this environment. However, as a hospital administrator client who is also a good friend of mine once told me, “the only way I’m going to have our beds filled is by keeping my docs happy. I can buy radio ads, billboards, and spend a fortune on marketing, but my doctors fill the beds.” That hospital has an evolved physician-hospital relationship – others aren’t so fortunate.

One of the ways I try to forge a connection is by helping future physicians gain some perspective on the business side. Each fall, I teach a series of one-and-a-half-day seminars for third-year residents who will be graduating the following July. By that point in their careers, they’ve spent close to a decade learning how to care for patients and almost no time talking about the micro- and macroeconomics of medicine. They leave training programs with no idea how to reconcile the dreaded “high cost of health care” (if they did, they wouldn’t leave so much money on the table in their private practices – more on that another time).

During the first break of each of these sessions, I’ll inevitably be approached by 6-8 attendees who offer some variation of “how come no one told us this before?” Without these conversations, they wind up very frustrated and sometimes unable to communicate with administrators.

Rest assured this can be fixed – diplomacy regularly takes place between entities speaking completely different languages. If you’d like to learn more about improving physician-hospital relationships, contact me at 770-913-9094.


Mike Fleischman is a Principal at Stroudwater and leads our Physician-Hospital Alignment practice.