6 Tips for Increasing Physician Attendance and Engagement at Meetings

By Jeff Morris, MD, MBA, FACS, FRCS(C)

Many organizations across the country struggle with low provider turnout at meetings – even those held in the evening, outside of regular clinical hours. Recently, one of my colleagues mentioned that an organization he coaches has been challenged by physician attendance at afternoon and early evening meetings even when they provide dinner and send out invitations well in advance. They were frustrated by the lack of participation and felt they had run out of ideas to encourage physicians to attend their meetings.

It’s important to remember that evening meetings can be tough for physicians who work long hours while trying to maintain some work-life balance. However, there are organizations where engaged physicians regularly attend and participate in meaningful meetings held in both the early morning and evening.

When I started as a CMO, we had very poor attendance at evening meetings, both general medical staff and departmental meetings. Faced with this challenge, we made some changes that made it easier for physicians to contribute positively to important discussions, own decisions that were made and demonstrate the discretionary effort that is a sure sign of physician engagement. Physicians seemed to appreciate these changes and attendance improved significantly.

  1. Elicit physician input to make meetings more meaningful
    • Have leaders round on physicians to harvest feedback.
    • Circulate a survey with 3-5 questions asking what would make meetings more relevant for physicians (cadence, timing, content, etc.).
  2. Reduce the number of evening meetings providers are expected to attend.
    • As reasonable, change the bylaws to reduce the number of necessary meetings.
    • Do a meeting audit to reduce the total number of meetings by cancelling any that are repetitive, unnecessary, or outdated.
    • Merge small departments, thereby reducing the number of meetings.
    • Hold quick breakfast meetings instead of evening meetings.
    • Hold department meetings 30 minutes just before the general medical staff meeting, so that they do not take up another evening.
  3. Make meetings more meaningful for physicians.
    • Send the agenda and relevant pre-work or information out to participants in advance so that time is not wasted reviewing these resources during the meeting. 
    • Schedule speakers/topics that are relevant to physicians (following the business meeting).
    • Arrange for continuing medical education (CME) credits for pertinent topics.
    • Ensure all senior leaders (including Medical Executive Committee members) attend the meetings and are available to the physicians to answer questions and field concerns.  
  4. Call key physician leaders a few days before the meetings to remind them about the event, and ask them to encourage their peers to attend.
  5. Make the meetings partly social, and allow physicians time to catch up.
    •  Advertise informal social time, with appetizers, wine (as appropriate), etc. 20 to 30 minutes before the start time of the formal meeting.
    • Alternatively, arrange for discretionary social time at the end of the formal meeting, so that those who want to stay on can and those who need to leave have that option.
  6. Respect physicians’ time.
    • Start the meeting promptly at the advertised time.
    • Don’t waste time by reviewing discussions/decisions for late comers.
    • Control the meeting, follow the agenda, and keep everyone on topic, while discouraging any one person from hogging the floor.
    • Finish the meeting on time.

After a few meetings with these new policies in place at my organization, word got around, and physician attendance improved considerably. Follow these suggestions closely and you should see a return on your investment.

If you hardwire these behaviors and still find that physicians aren’t showing up, you may have a larger challenge with provider engagement. The Huron Medical Group Solutions team can help you improve alignment, accountability and engagement of your medical team, and we would be glad to speak with you about your specific concerns.

Jeff Morris,MD has more than 30 years of medical practice experience, with more than a decade of physician executive leadership experience and more than 7 years of experience as a Studer Group coach and speaker. He works with physicians and medical staff leaders across the country to “connect the dots” between enhanced physician communication skills, greater patient engagement in their own care and better clinical outcomes, translating into a superior reputation, increased market-share, reduced liability risk, improved reimbursement and greater personal and professional fulfillment with less burnout.

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