A lot of ‘ink’ has been spent on physician engagement as a magic bullet to improve relations between a hospital and it’s employed physicians. If we were able to clearly define what engagement is, we would find dissatisfaction based upon many factors. Some have defined it as “vigor, dedication, and absorption” in work and to the organization to ensure success.”
In order to engage another group, one has to understand the culture, practice and norms that exist within that group. For instance, the top concern for employed physicians usually is concern for patient safety and quality of care. Most physicians will walk away if they feel their concern for patient safety is being overlooked or traded for revenue no matter how much they are paid. Second, at least the generation prior to millennials were independent creatures who did not want to be told how to practice. Most of us will recognize when our right to practice is being impinged on despite statements like: we are not telling you how to practice medicine. They may be technically correct. However, most times other professionals (pharmacists, therapists, advanced nurse practitioners and even administrative personnel) are used to influence the decision making or limiting the time for each patient as examples. Physicians love data. When this is done using empiric data, most physicians listen.
Another question is whether improving engagement ‘scores’ improves patient or physician satisfaction. A study of over 600 physicians and residents each, set out to answer this using the Advisory Board survey, Press Ganey and CGCAHPS for out-patients and ACGME database for residents. They concluded that “For our large medical group, significant improvement in physician engagement across time did not coincide with statistically meaningful change in the outpatient experience with physician communication or physician trainee experience with overall program and faculty evaluations.” (https://www.dovepress.com/does-physician-engagement-affect-satisfaction-of-patients-or-resident--peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-JHL)
Conclusion: Engagement is an ethereal term, which could mean anything within the context of hospital-physician relations. While the answer is complex and multi-factorial, employers removing hurdles from physician’s daily grind so they can go home and spend time with their loved ones without spending more of their free time at home will go a long way. We do not need million- dollar annual surveys. It may be really that simple. Or is it?