Data collection and analysis has long been a topic discussed at practice management conferences and this year was no different. However, few have focused on how to motivate and incentivize providers to correct problems or seize opportunities exposed through the collected and analyzed practice data. This year’s American Society of Anesthesiologists’ PRACTICE MANAGEMENT™ 2018 conference offered a look at the unrealized value in designing physician incentives around this data.

In his presentation, “Designing Physician Incentives in HealthCare: What Works and What Doesn’t,” Dr. David Lubarsky, Chief Medical and System Integration Officer at the University of Miami Health System, covered everything from the challenges in motivating change to how to construct an effective incentive.  He offered the following recommendations to develop a valuable physician incentive plan:

  1. Ensure the goals you set appeal to a common shared purpose of the group.
  2. Design the incentive system to reward the outcome you want to have occur.
  3. Be aware that any penalties in the program may trigger physicians or other clinicians to make a market decision to accept the fine.
  4. Set difficult, but achievable goals to ensure the right amount of motivation is present to inspire a higher level of performance.
  5. Provide ongoing feedback in the form of a blinded social ranking of measured performance.
  6. Deliver the reward without additional contingencies, or it will discourage providers from working towards it.
  7. Avoid rewards that are not financial in nature. The value of non-financial rewards can vary from provider to provider.
  8. Don’t rule out team level incentives – if the teams can be broken down to smaller groups that make sense.
  9. Avoid rewarding only the top percentile or best performers as it can discourage teamwork and collaboration.
  10. Make it worth their time. Time is valuable to everyone. Studies show that incentives that equal up to 20% of a physician’s base salary will garner the most attention.

One last piece of advice: Keep in mind that when designing a physician incentive plan that people will act in their own self-interest to manipulate the system if they can benefit from it personally.

How do you work with that? Consider the likely possibility that you may not get it right the first time. There is a lot of value in making mistakes, learning from them and using that knowledge to make improvements.

So, how can you be successful? Have a willingness to make changes in the next version of your incentive plan while honoring your assurances – regardless of the outcome. When done effectively, physician incentive plans can strengthen the appeal the practice has for its members. When your incentive plan is aligned with goals that improve things like performance or quality of care your practice provides, share this with the facilities and key stakeholders. It’s a great way to further illuminate the value of your team.

If you would like more ideas on how to communicate the value your anesthesia practice offers to a hospital, let’s talk. Also, check out other topics covered during the PRACTICE MANAGEMENT™ 2018 conference: Value is Trending and OR Metrics that Matter.

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