The successful physician of 2015: 5 essential traits

The health care scene is evolving. Rapidly. We all know that. Thanks to legislation, changing patient expectations and physician shortages, we are all in for a roller coaster of changes over the next few years.

But what does this mean for physicians? Plenty. Most importantly, it means physician’s roles in the health care system will change. Drastically. And that means the traits and skills you’ll need to be successful will change, too.

Some traits will endure. Physicians will always need to have a sense of empathy for patients. A love of people. And an uncanny ability to be virtually unflappable in the face of severe stress and anxiety.

But a whole new class of skills is emerging that physicians will undoubtedly need to remain successful when 2015 rolls around. Let’s take a closer peek:

Focusing on life goalsnot just health goals. Sure, your patient needs to lose 50 pounds. But her motivation to change lies in her desire to take that vacation with her daughter’s family to Disneyland where she’ll have to walk five hours a day. Helping your patients reach their LIFE goals—not just their health goals—will be a major focus of physicians in the years ahead.

Becoming a translator. Think of all the “languages” you currently speak. Payer language. Physician speak. Pharmacist code. Your patients don’t understand much (if any) of it. But, increasingly, they’re expecting you and the rest of your care team to translate this gobbledygook. If you’re going to deliver care as part of a single experience from your patient’s point of view, you’ll need to speak the right language at the right time to the right person. That means being a good listener—and an excellent translator. You will need to be the center of personalized-to-the-patient-and-caregiver interactions for consumers, fellow providers and other partners.

Collaborating with the enemy (at times). Successful physicians of the future will build alliances with partners and organizations that may have been “enemies” in the past. I’m talking about payers, “competing” physicians and other specialists (and even emerging “competitors” like the “bodega clinics” that are popping up in Los Angeles). In 2015, successful providers will collaborate with payers for better patient outcomes — instead of fighting with them for your fair share of the pie. Put simply: breaking down barriers will be necessary to achieve better outcomes for your patients and your practice.

Changing how you think about the office visit. With the growing popularity of e-visits, online, remote, and even retail health visits won’t be considered revenue cannibalization or quality of care compromises in 2015. Instead, they’ll be embraced. Come along for the ride. Primary care physicians will enjoy clinics unclogged of low-reimbursement visits, while patients will feel greater access to care and more control over their own health. Whether these new kinds of visits occur inside an accountable care organization (ACO) in which you participate, or somewhere independent of your practice or hospital, physicians will need to accommodate them as part of the continuum of care.

Communicating with patientseven when theyre not sickAccording to a recent study, 80 percent of respondents said it’s their doctor’s job to keep them healthy—not just treat them when they’re sick. What’s more, 50 percent said an email, text or smart phone app with tips could have helped them avoid a past health issue. Clearly, patients want MORE communication—not less—from their physicians. And this trend will only increase as more people get their hands on smart phones and tablets in the years ahead. You’ll be asked to reach out to patients every day via texts and apps—just to check in and offer advice. Keeping patients healthy will be the challenge of the day—and you’ll have to do more communicating than ever to help accomplish that goal.

Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner at Aveus. She blogs at Consumer Experience For Profit.

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