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Leading Leaders: Leveraging Physician Drive (09:54)

“In health care transformation, the holy grail is really engaging patients and empowering patients,” says University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee. “And I think along that journey we’re really overlooking one fact, [which is] that to engage patients we have to really engage and empower physicians. And we need our physicians to do what they do best: we need them to lead.”

If physicians are already leaders, how do we lead leaders? “Leading physicians is about tapping into their innate drive to tackle tough problems and to constantly improve,” explains Lee. “Leading physicians is not about telling them how to change, or directing them, or even using external motivators like money. It’s really about creating the right environment that motivates them to want to change.”

Using examples from her own organization, Lee breaks physician leadership into a three-part framework:

  1. Tapping into physicians’ profound sense of purpose. What if we made solving the health care crisis part of every physician’s purpose?
  2. Encouraging autonomy. What if we used feedback and data that physicians actually choose and validate to guide the transformation process?
  3. Mastery. “Mastery is key,” says Lee. “Physicians derive an enormous amount of satisfaction from mastery, and they are particularly competitive at out-mastering everyone else.

If we made health care transformation skills such as quality improvement, care pathways, and team-based care just as important to master as clinical diagnosis or surgical techniques, what would the results be? “What if we tapped into the physician’s own innate competitive natures,” asks Lee, “to play a different game: one in which they can lead?”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016.

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