Accelerating Physician Engagement with Empathy

Driving Engagement with Empathy

Engagement is a highly personalized process that taps into the individualized needs, values, and goals of each physician in the organization. Utilizing empathy can help you tailor your strategy to your situation. The Oxford Living Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” This directly corresponds to the tools needed to understand and improve engagement in the healthcare.

  1. Identify the Context – Engagement is contextual so before we begin to practice empathy as a strategy, you will need to determine the context first. Engagement strategies work best when created around a specific goal, project, or metric. Consider the analogy of dietician. They may identify generally healthy foods but identifying a specific patient’s dietary needs will enable them to create a much more effective dietary plan. A diabetic will not have the same dietary needs as a patient recovering from a coronary angioplasty. Likewise, improving your emergency department’s engagement with new clinical practices will not have the same requirements as increasing committee participation.
  2. Identify the Stakeholders – Once you have determined the goal for your current engagement strategy, you can begin to identify the key stakeholders. This is where our concept of empathy is going to begin to take hold. Start by mapping out which individuals will be impacted by the project. This will include physicians, staff, and administrators who will participate in the project or initiative, as well as patients, community members, and third parties who will impact (or be impacted) by the project. Practicing empathy can help you identify key stakeholders. For instance, empathizing with a patient may reveal the impact of office staff on overall satisfaction, or empathizing with physicians may reveal the importance of engaging medical scribes to reduce administration strain.
  3. Humanize the Players – Human Being vs. Human Doing: This step is about translating groups of stakeholders into individuals. Each engagement journey is unique and will play out differently because each player brings their own dynamic to the mix. Consider the human factors behind engagement to find the most meaningful way to encourage change. Has a physician recently experienced a change in their personal life that is impacting engagement level? Do we know their value and what they care about? How might you rephrase the conversation to tap into their individual values and what they care about?
  4. Identify Motivators – More valuable to the engagement journey than the what is the why of an action. Why is a particular physician having trouble engaging with the project? Why should this initiative matter to the stakeholders? What is the ultimate goal of the project and of the individuals in question? That is the essence of improving engagement. It is understanding the motivations behind the actions to better understand how to change those actions. Situate yourself in an empathic mindset to identify the motivators.
  5. Build Relationships One Conversation at a Time – A trusting relationship is the true catalyst for change and alignment. Practicing empathy will enable you and your team to strategically map the terrain of the engagement project, but it will also put you in a valuable position to build relationships throughout your organization’s value chain. Practice open, honest communication and engage with your physicians, staff, partners, and clients to create a positive environment in which engagement can grow and flourish.

Whether you are focused on aligning an individual, project, or team, using empathy along the journey will vastly improve your outcome. Empathy is an important quality in a healthcare professional. We are quite familiar with the concept of empathy as it pertains to the physician/patient relationship. As such, we tend to expect a high level of empathy and emotional intelligence from our physicians. But empathy plays an important role in our working relationships as well. Practicing empathy within the organization can help build engagement by helping identify impediments to change and how to overcome them. Reshaping the conversation.

At CTI we are committed to supporting healthcare organizations in their engagement efforts with tools for success, strategies and roadmaps, as well as classes and workshops. To learn more about how we can help and to access our brochure of physician leadership training offerings, contact us online or give us a call at (813) 333-1401.