September 9, 2005

Report probes clinician productivity issues

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Vanderbilt University Hospital CEO Larry Goldberg got a little damp at the Employee Celebration Month kickoff party on Tuesday. He was among those taking turns getting dunked, which benefited the Employee Assistance Hardship Fund. See page 4 for more photos from Tuesday’s festivities, as well as a complete schedule of next week’s Celebration events.
photo by Dana Johnson

Report probes clinician productivity issues

This May and June, in several small-group discussions, Vanderbilt University Medical Center leaders asked around 40 of Vanderbilt's busiest clinicians what the Medical Center's strengths and weaknesses are.

Leaders then proceeded to questions about what allows these clinicians to see so many patients, and what changes they would recommend to allow more clinicians at Vanderbilt to be more productive.

Asking the questions were Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry Jacobson, M.D., VUSM Dean Steven Gabbe, M.D., and Chief Medical Officer Wright Pinson, M.D.

“The employee satisfaction survey was not felt to have plumbed the depths of the sentiment of our practicing physicians to the extent we wanted or needed,” Pinson said. “To improve operations we needed to seek the opinions of our most productive clinicians.”

This latest effort to boost clinician satisfaction and aid productivity is part of elevate, a wide-ranging improvement effort begun last November at VUMC.

Regarding Vanderbilt's strengths, clinicians noted collegiality, quality of care, multidisciplinary teamwork, contracting for Vanderbilt Medical Group services, and StarPanel, the advanced medical records application developed at Vanderbilt.

As for opportunities for improvement, Pinson compiled the discussion findings into a worksheet with items grouped under space issues, physician recruitment and retention issues, operational issues (in individual clinics and across Vanderbilt Medical Group as a whole), information technology issues, radiology issues and miscellaneous issues.

Clinicians said they didn't feel adequately integrated into clinic management. Pinson has met with clinic managers to institute changes. All clinicians will be invited to clinic management meetings and clinicians will be asked to participate in evaluation of clinic employees.

Some clinicians spoke of shortcomings in how their clinics operate. Pinson has reactivated the Clinic Redesign Team, the group that helped clinics rid themselves of paper-based processes in favor of electronic processes. The group is now a general fix-it team, available to help clinics work through all manner of operational issues.

Regarding information technology, clinicians see opportunities to improve Vanderbilt's electronic medical record interface, and opportunities more generally to involve clinicians in improving clinical applications.

In August, VMG began a series of monthly StarPanel educational sessions geared especially for faculty providers. The VMG Electronic Medical Record Team (launched just prior to the discussions with clinicians) is designed among other things to aid quicker resolution of electronic medical record issues and quicker development of new tools for clinicians.

Clinicians mentioned not knowing where to find their patient satisfaction scores. Pinson and VMG Chief Operating Officer David Posch are designing an extensive Web-based practice report that will provide individual feedback to all clinicians.

Meanwhile, detailed patient satisfaction reports for individual clinicians have been available for more than a year through the My Vandy Web site (see the link to My Vandy on the VUMC home page).

This report is growing out of date and soon will be replaced, because, in July, VUMC ended its in-house paper-based survey and switched to an outsourced phone survey. With a new phone survey, it will take months to accrue meaningful samples for individual clinicians.

While the busiest clinicians may begin seeing their individual results on the vendor's Web site as early as October, results for most VMG clinicians may not be available until January or later.

The recommendations still under evaluation involve scheduling, financial incentives, more help in the clinic and other topics.