VALUE ANALYSIS  |  Part 2 in a series
(Read Part 1 and Part 3)

Communication with doctors is crucial to successful value analysis

In part two of The Source’s yearlong exploration of the Value Analysis Survival Guide, we look at what is at the heart of the VA process—effective communication AND engagement with physicians.

Domini Pelkey, BSN, MBA, RN

Physicians are key to the clinical value analysis process because it primarily includes products that require physician expertise and guidance, says HealthTrust’s AVP, Clinical Resource Management, Domini Pelkey, BSN, MBA, RN.

“The heart of it is to make sure that we are making the best decisions for our patients. Products are reviewed from a quality and clinical-evidence standpoint first. The cost impact is also reviewed to make sure that we’re also being good stewards of healthcare,” she explains. “It takes our physicians’ partnership to make sure that we’re making decisions that are in the best interest of patient care.”

Physicians are going to be the first people to know and understand whether the benefits of a new product outweigh its cost, if there are alternative options or whether the product already in place is doing the job for patients, she says.

Kimberly Kelly, MSN, RN

“You need to include physicians from the start—both in the planning and in the conversations to understand if they have concerns related to any given product or equipment,” adds Kimberly Kelly, MSN, RN, AVP, Clinical Services at HealthTrust. “Otherwise, if they are excluded, your chances of having a successful program and being able to effectively make a change at the facility level are very limited.”

Four keys to effective communication

Kelly explains that communicating with physicians is different from communicating with someone in supply chain or even with other providers such as nurses. “When you’re communicating with physicians, there are a lot of other considerations around time management and competing priorities. You have to be very sensitive to all of the internal and external forces they are dealing with,” she adds. Kelly and Pelkey offer the following four tips:

  • Know your audience. Which channel of communication do they prefer? Do they want you to talk to them face to face in the physicians’ lounge? Or do they prefer email, texting or a phone call?
  • Be prepared. Complete your research ahead of time, including data on how a product is already used in the organization and what the trends are both across the country and internationally. Make sure that your information is not based solely on supply chain data, but that it’s also clinical. It should touch the clinical measures that a physician would want to see in a product discussion.
  • Remember, your role is to listen. Be clear and concise, ask open-ended questions and, most of all, let them do the majority of the talking. They are the ones providing direct care or performing a procedure. You are there to support.
  • Make sure they know who you are before you enter into a conversation with them. They have to have some trust and respect for whom they’re dealing with and what the process is. Build relationships with your physicians before you start asking them for their input.

Relationships matter

If the first time you reach out to a physician is to say that you’re looking at, for example, some new implants, and you want their feedback, that’s “not the right way to start the conversation,” Kelly points out. “Begin the discussion ahead of time by finding ways to align around common goals and build a relationship. Discover how to stay engaged with key leaders and develop those relationships prior to suggesting a change. A great place to begin engaging with physicians is to work collaboratively on interdisciplinary teams that operate to improve patient outcomes.”

If you don’t make the effort to get to know and understand what drives them, Kelly says, you may find yourself struggling to build a rapport. Not fostering relationships with your physicians makes it harder to overcome objections and can cause them to become defensive. “They don’t understand who you are, what goals you’re working toward, whether or not you’re looking at things from the physician and patient perspective,” Kelly explains. “They can often think, ‘Well, this is just all about money, and you don’t really care about what I’m trying to do with my patients.’ ”

But if you do make the effort to establish and maintain respectful relationships, says Pelkey, not only will you have greater insight into your supply chain, but you will also be able to enhance the quality of care and drive down the cost of healthcare. “Each conversation with a physician should be made with a goal to continue building that relationship and working together to optimize patient care because that’s the ultimate goal,” she says. “You’re optimizing the quality and the future state of providing all the services that your facility or healthcare network provide.”

For specific steps to engage and effectively communicate with physicians, see chapters 3 and 4 of the Value Analysis Survival Guide, contact your HealthTrust Account Manager or the Clinical Services team to request value analysis resources, or sign up for the VA track at this summer’s HealthTrust University Conference.

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