How to Reach Reluctant Physicians

Friday, October 8th, 2010
This post was written by Jessica Fornarotto

Joseph F. Bujak, M.D., vice president of medical affairs for Kootenai Medical Center, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, offers three strategies to engage physicians in new initiatives.

The most influential means of reaching physicians is to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Dr. Chuck Dwyer, academic director for the Aresty Institute’s Leading and Managing People Program in the Wharton School, would say that the way you change and influence someone’s behavior is by changing their perception — doing what you think will enhance what it is that they already value. Thus, if you’re going to influence physician behavior, you have to be in touch with their values.

Secondly, you must appreciate that physicians’ behavior makes perfectly good sense to them and that accordingly, their behaviors serve personal value hierarchies. If you’re going to get them to willingly embrace, engage and commit to new behaviors that align with your goals, you must allow them to express existing assumptions and belief systems. If past views are not challenged and addressed, there is no way physicians can understand that alternative behaviors may serve them as well.

Another critically important take-home point in physician engagement is to surpass mere compliance and encourage genuine commitment to new behavior. Such commitment must arise from physician willingness to adjust basic belief systems and operating assumptions. They must appreciate that new behaviors can enhance their practices, rather than just reorganize them.

The idea of motivational schema becomes important in approaching physicians and trying to influence their behavior. There are three points of reference in engaging physician motivation.

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