Physician Health

To boost doctor satisfaction, give them a say in how things run

Jennifer Lubell , Contributing News Writer

AMA News Wire

To boost doctor satisfaction, give them a say in how things run

Mar 14, 2024

Physician-owned and -governed Hattiesburg Clinic in southern Mississippi has significantly reduced burnout and improved physician satisfaction through its willingness to engage physicians in organizational decision-making, whether it’s in a committee meeting or at a casual dinner.

Physician-led teams, EHR installation and optimization, and social events have all improved employee well-being.

AMA Health System Program

Providing enterprise solutions to equip your leadership, physicians and care teams with resources to advance your programs while being recognized as a leader. 

Hattiesburg Clinic represents 40 specialties, spanning 17 counties in 70 locations across Mississippi. It has undergone significant expansions over the last decade, nearly doubling its physician size. During this time, the health system has aimed to keep a family atmosphere, with individual physicians actively connecting with their peers, Rebecca W. Lauderdale, MD, an internist who serves as the clinic’s physician well-being champion, said during an AMA Insight Network webinar.

Hattiesburg Clinic is a member of the AMA Health System Program, which provides enterprise solutions to equip leadership, physicians and care teams with resources to help drive the future of medicine.

Among other benefits, members of the AMA Health System Program have access to the AMA Insight Network’s well-being community. This virtual forum provides an opportunity for like-minded leaders from across the country to hear more examples of how leading health systems are finding innovative ways to address health care inequities in their communities.

In 2019, Hattiesburg began examining its organizational structure and leadership, and the engagement level of its physicians and staff. In pre-pandemic work, “we saw that physicians wanted to have increased transparency, increased accountability, increased involvement,” explained Bryan Batson, MD, CEO of Hattiesburg Clinic and who serves on the AMA Integrated Physician Practice Section Governing Council.

One important element that distinguishes Hattiesburg Clinic is that physicians become shareholders a year after their hire date. “We are all equal shareholders in the organization,” said Dr. Batson.

Much of the organization’s decision-making occurs through its 12 committees and 10–12 work groups—that are more specialty-specific. Through the committee work, Hattiesburg Clinic has taken proactive steps to engage its physicians. For example, the marketing committee is a great place for creative minds to explore ideas, and for those tech-minded physicians, they can engage in the Information Systems Committee. Meanwhile, another large committee tackles the value-based care journey.

“We brought in one representative from every specialty across the entire organization to work on the value-based health care delivery,” said Dr. Batson, noting committee meetings take place at lunchtime, during early morning hours or occasionally in the early evening, and “we generally have good participation.”

The practice of sharing committee work to the entire organization was ramped up during the pandemic and continues to this day. Updates on the different committees’ work, what’s going on in the organization, what the board is dealing with, and the direction of value-based care are shared during quarterly shareholder meetings.

“Putting the transparency around this and communication with the quarterly shareholders meetings … was crucial to making people feel—or helping people feel connected—to the information stream, because there's a lot going on,” said Dr. Batson.

For its EHR use, Hattiesburg Clinic has achieved the Epic Gold Stars Level 10 award for several years in a row. This means the clinic is in the top 1% of Epic users worldwide.

“Our success in the Epic space has been because we have let the physician voice and staff voice drive our enhancements,” said Dr. Batson, noting at least once a month an EHR steering committee meets with their outstanding Epic team to get input from the physicians on enhancements and optimizations.

Hattiesburg Clinic also tracks each physician’s regular use of the EHR system, leveraging use of augmented intelligence to implement improvements.

Additionally, Hattiesburg Clinic’s chief medical information officer has been piloting the use of virtual scribes to see whether they reduce physician administrative burdens, said Dr. Lauderdale, noting that early data points toward scribes reducing pajama time with the EHR.

Hattiesburg Clinic has scored well on the AMA Organizational Biopsy®, with 84.6% of physicians reporting satisfaction with their jobs. Overall, less than 37% of physicians reported feeling some level of burnout.

“But when we broke down our groups, we found that our early career physicians, people who were in their fifth year or less in practice with us, had a 10 [percentage] point higher burnout rate than the rest of the organization,” said Dr. Lauderdale. “They didn't know the partners they were referring to and getting referrals from. …They just wanted opportunities to get to know those people better.”

Hattiesburg Clinic leaders responded by hosting physician dinners where physicians could network with doctors from across the organization in a small group setting.

The dinners represented people from every specialty and across all decades and stages of practice, she said. “It helped us to remember just how rewarding it is to be in relationship with our peers.”

Dr. Batson will be the subject-matter expert in an eight-week AMA Private Practice Simple Solutions learning collaborative on value-based care, which launches March 26. Register now.