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Developing Physician Leaders in a Consumer-Centric Environment


Tue Nov 12 2019

Developing Physician Leaders in a Consumer-Centric Environment

As talent development professionals, how does the trend from patient-centric to consumer-centric affect physician leadership development?

Remember the last time you were looking for a new dentist or family medical doctor?


How did you locate them? Who did you ask? What information did you seek?

Was your search easy or difficult? Most often it is difficult to navigate insurance plans, office hours, health grades, and even Yelp. During that search, you were a consumer, not quite yet a patient. And that is the story of how the healthcare economy is changing. Retail giants like Amazon and Walmart are entering the marketplace through the open door of customer dissatisfaction. The result becomes hospitals and healthcare systems experiencing unprecedented competition. Therefore, many healthcare leaders and their organizations are implementing a consumer-centric approach.

What Is Consumer-Centric Care?

Simply said, consumer-centric care is expanding an organization’s view of care delivery to patients and potential patients. By identifying potential patients as consumers, healthcare organizations aim to better understand and connect with potential patients prior to their decision to engage in their services.

According to John Quelch, professor in health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Charles Edward Wilson professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and author of Consumers, Corporations and Public Health, “There are five things that consumers want in the healthcare experience.” The “five Es” of consumer-centric care as quoted from his book are:

  1. experience that will lead to a cure

  2. empathy to make them feel that the provider cares

  3. efficiency so that they won’t be kept waiting

  4. economy to ensure they are getting fair value

  5. empowerment that gives them some degree of choice around their treatment plans.

How Is Consumer-Centric Care Different From Patient-Centric Care?

Patient-centric care places the point of care at where the patient receives treatment at the healthcare system, doctor’s office, or hospital. The patient is in the middle of the care team. Consumer-centric care is based on what populations a healthcare system or hospital will serve. According to Quelch, “Hospitals need to know their existing consumer base as well as potential \[new\] consumer bases that could be served,” he says. “You have to decide what mix of patients you are interested in serving. Therefore, a more consumer-centric evaluation would be based on what populations you are going to serve and which ones you won’t serve,” he adds. Our clinicians and their teams are vital to the customer experience of those new consumer bases.


How Does This Shift Affect Physician Leaders?

A consumer-centric approach expands the physician-patient interaction beyond the exam room or bedside. It is building trusting relationships to cultivate outstanding consumer experiences. Physicians maybe called to participate in activities to connect with potential patients outside their comfort zone, which may seem overwhelming. For a low-control and high-stress profession, physicians and physician leaders are at risk for burnout. Consider the realities of how physicians are pulled in multiple directions in today’s healthcare work environment then determine how leadership development may counteract these challenges. How effective we are in having strong, resilient physician leaders will determine the success or failure of many hospitals or health systems.

As Talent Professionals, What Is Our Call to Action?

The good news is much work has been accomplished in this area. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement recently published a whitepaper on reclaiming the joy at work for physicians. Our call-to-action is to create a psychologically safe environment for physicians to feel valued, empowered, and engaged. It is our responsibility to push the envelope on what physician leadership capability and capacity truly means to hospitals and health systems investing in physician leadership development.

Let’s focus on what our executive leadership expect for the physician leader role in a consumer-centric care environment. Be cognizant of your physician population mix as it may be employed, contracted, or voluntary members of a medical staff. Then provide the right competencies, skills, and tools to help reframe and redesign the care delivery pathway to be more consumer-centric by improving the flow and increase perceived value.

I highly recommend applying positive psychology as a curricula foundation to create an environment of “teamness,” growth, creativity, and optimism. This strengths-based approach is rooted in asset-based thinking. Physicians and all clinicians by education are deficit-based thinkers. They are trained problem-solvers, seeking issues to diagnose and heal. Asset-based and deficit-based thinking are not an “or,” they’re an “and” approach. This mindset shift will enhance your culture which in hand will support resilience-building. It is that healthy way to respond to stress that will ripple to the care teams and peers who work with physician leaders making desired strategic shifts in care delivery achieved at minimal psychological and physical costs.


By recognizing competencies, skills, and tools gaps that exist for physicians in customer-centric care organizations, we may take steps to address them. Using a mindset shift of positive psychology to underpin your cultural approach will launch a sustainable systems approach.


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