blog post 7714

Engaging Physicians to Improve Patient Outcomes

By Anne Freeman-Mendoza, Patient Experience Coach, and Elisa Stewart, Patient Experience Coach, HealthStream

How do you engage physician practices in the world of patient experience when they are already facing time and financial constraints? Successful practices start by asking one important question: Why should we build a patient-centered culture? This question sets the stage for creating and cascading the practice’s unique vision of patient-centered excellence throughout the organization. It also puts practices on the right path toward aligning their broader practice goals with patient experience goals. 

Critical First Step: Know Your “Why”

Physician groups seeking to build patient-centered excellence must first know in definitive terms why they do what they do. Patient-centered excellence as a concept is about the “Why?”—why should anyone care? 

In his 2009 TEDxPuget Sound talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, ethnographer and author Simon Sinek, who also wrote the book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2011), says it is the “Why” that connects organizations to people. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe,” says Sinek, who has uncovered how some of the most successful companies and leaders are able to inspire and separate themselves from the pack. “But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do,” Sinek suggests. He points out that inspired leaders and companies like Apple are successful because they “think, act, and communicate from the inside out.” 

For physician practices, the same process holds true. Creating a positive patient experience flows from the simple question “Why?” What is your organization’s “Why?” and what is your vision for how your practice will run?

Creating and Cascading Your Vision

In healthcare, most people share the belief that all patients deserve the best care and the best overall experience possible. In order to be effective, however, physician practices must translate what this means in their world. They can do this by using a creative dialogue to begin a process of discovery. Once organizations start to understand why they want to create an exceptional patient experience, they can then develop guidelines for vision-casting.

In the vision-casting phase, senior leaders come together to create a vision for what it means to be a patient-centered physician practice. During this process, they will do a cultural deep dive and develop a journey statement on how they will create an exceptional patient experience. In turn, this process will be used to communicate the vision of patient-centered excellence to staff and physicians. Vision-casting is a necessary step in establishing the foundation for building a new practice culture. When developing your vision, consider the following four key questions:

  1. What is your journey?
  2. Why is it necessary?
  3. What will success look like?           
  4. What do you need from everyone? 

Aligning Goals with Patient Strategies

Once the journey statement has been created, this new vision of patient-centered excellence is ready to be cascaded down through the organization. This is the time for administrators and physicians to come together to determine how they can align overall strategic goals with their new goal of creating an exceptional experience for every patient, every time[HA1] . For example, physicians may be focused on making sure they have enough time with their patients and being able to provide quality of care in the exam room, whereas administrators may be targeting specific business aspects of the practice. While both will retain these goals, they also need to bring them into alignment with broader patient experience goals. 


Sinek, S. “How great leaders inspire action,” [Video file]. TEDxPuget Sound, September 2009.  Retrieved from[rr1] 

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