January 24, 2017

Let’s Stop Trying to Change Physician Behavior

Roy Smythe, MD

Let’s Stop Trying to Change Physician Behavior

The digital revolution has provided, and will continue to provide populations, patients and providers, smaller, faster, and less expensive tools that can be scaled more easily than legacy technologies. These innovations will, in time, help render the delivery of medical care dramatically more effective and efficient. However, despite this objective’s promise, we must understand that these technologies alone are necessary, but insufficient to drive desired success – they must somehow facilitate human behavior change.

It is not enough to hand a new disease management tool to a patient –  he or she must reliably use it, and be encouraged to continue to do so by the demonstration of benefit.  Likewise, it does little good to project new information – gleaned from our recent augmented ability to collect and synthesize data via our adoption of EHR platforms – onto the glowing computer screens of healthcare providers.  If they do not act, or do not know how to act on that information – nothing happens.

There is no service line leader or chief medical officer that has not been tasked with “changing physician behavior”. Over the past couple of decades the requests to do so from healthcare administrations, payers, and others have shown no sign of abatement. The specific assertions have included things like, “document and bill more effectively”, “learn how to use this new medical record”, and “make sure that your patient satisfaction scores improve”. Now we are asking physicians to embrace this next wave of digital technologies, as well as the information they collect, and change the way they deliver care.

So… how do we facilitate new physician behaviors?  See the new LinkedIn Healthcare Channel piece from our Senior Medical Advisor, Dr. Roy Smythe, entitled “Stop Trying to Change Physician Behavior”.  He shares with us, from his own experience and recent research, what hasn’t worked, what could work more effectively, highlighting the critical difference between “changing behavior”, and providing the support and encouragement to facilitate an individual’s personal decision to do so.

The best way to help individuals align their behavior with their deepest motives was to stop trying to control their thoughts and behaviors. …others reach their own conclusions about the values that are most important to them and the changes that might be required for them to live according to their values.

— Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change (2013)