Episode 36: Physician Compacts – Intentionality in Your Culture
We’ve talked in previous episodes about physician contracts and have compared and contrasted them with physician compacts. At its core, a Physician Compact is a mutual agreement between physicians and their organizations. These are not legal documents, like a contract, but living, breathing agreements that serve as the foundation for mutual expectations and accountability. But they are not just about creating rules and guidelines; they are tools for intentionally developing a culture within your practice.
Now you may wonder: Why should you consider implementing a Physician Compact? The answer lies in the power of alignment. A well-structured compact helps to align your goals with those of your team, fostering shared responsibility and a collective vision. It’s not just about setting expectations, but about creating a culture of respect, collaboration, and mutual understanding.
There are several elements that your physician compact can encompass. First, there should be a clear outline of mutual expectations. These can cover a wide range of topics, including clinical care and patient safety, professional conduct, innovation and research, leadership, and community service. Remember, these are not one-sided obligations – the compact must outline not only what is expected from the physician but also what the practice commits to providing for the physician.
Secondly, a compact should have clear consequences for unmet expectations. This isn’t intended to be about punishment, but rather about maintaining accountability and facilitating course correction when necessary.
Lastly, a physician compact must be flexible and adaptable. As your practice grows and evolves, so too should your compact. It’s not meant to be a static document but an evolving agreement that changes as your practice does. Chances are, as you socialize this idea within your practice, you’ll find one or more of your partners who are enthusiastic about the idea and who may wind up being the “Keeper of the Compact” in the long run. It’s a great thing to review each year at your strategic planning retreat.
Now that we understand what a physician compact is and what it should contain, let’s focus on how it contributes to intentionally creating culture within a medical practice culture. Any organization, including a medical practice, is the sum of its shared values, beliefs, and norms. A physician compact can be an incredibly effective tool for shaping this culture because it lays out the foundational expectations and commitments for everyone involved.
By clearly defining the standards for professional conduct and performance as well as the mutual obligations and commitments, a compact helps to foster a culture of accountability respect and shared responsibility. It gives everyone a clear understanding of what’s expected of them and what they can expect in return.
Moreover, the process of creating a physician compact is itself a culture building exercise, as it involves deep reflection and discussion about the practices’ values and goals, which can bring the team closer together and make everyone feel more invested in the practices’ success.
You don’t need to create this from scratch – there are several good examples online. Here are a few questions to prompt your thinking:
- Are we a formal or informal organization?
- What can our physicians expect from the organization?
- Around compensation?
- Business systems and processes?
- What does the organization expect from the physicians?
- What kind of conduct do we expect?
- What about clinical responsibilities?
- Charting standards?
- What is important to us as an organization?
- What are our “non-negotiables”?
- Who will we be as a group of professional colleagues?
This is a great exercise to do in conjunction with a review of your Mission, Vision, and Values. Those should help to steer your entire conversation.
Now let’s talk about implementing a physician compact in your practice. First, you’ll want to involve your team in its creation – remember, this is a mutual agreement, not a top-down dictate. By involving your team in the compact’s creation, you ensure buy-in, and you foster a sense of ownership. Second, communicate the compact clearly and openly to make sure everyone understands what’s in it why it’s important and what it means for them. Encourage questions and feedback and be open to revising the compact based on that feedback. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, live by the compact. Lead by example and show your team that the compact is not just a piece of paper but a guiding principle for your practice. Refer to it in meetings and review it as you’re making critical decisions for the group.
Let’s not forget that a physician compact extends beyond the practice itself. Imagine having compacts with your patients, creating clear expectations on both sides and fostering better physician-patient relationships. Such a compact could clarify expectations around appointment times, follow-up procedures, payment terms and more, making for smoother interactions and an enhanced patient experience.
To conclude, a physician compact is more than a mutual agreement, it’s a powerful tool for intentional culture development within your practice. It’s about aligning goals, fostering accountability, enhancing mutual respect, and facilitating harmonious working relationships within your practice. Remember that a compact is only as good as its implementation: it’s important to review and revise it regularly to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. By implementing a physician compact, you’re not just taking a step towards better management, you’re building a more aligned, accountable, and respectful culture, and ultimately a more successful practice.
Join me for our next episode, where we’ll talk about delegation skills, and how important they are to your leadership and financial effectiveness.