March 30, 2021

How one hospital reversed physician burnout and attrition

Clinician Leadership | Leadership Development | Team Development

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When we first met, administrators at Conway Regional Health faced a pending physician exodus and the possibility of a 40% revenue loss — significant challenges for incoming CEO Matt Troup. We sat down with Troup and his team as they described how they reversed physician dissent and replaced distrust with a thriving partnership.

The challenge: dissenting physicians organize to start a new hospital

 A 150-bed, acute care hospital in Conway (Ark.), Conway Regional Health had served its community as an independent hospital for nearly 100 years. Its medical staff was diverse, comprising employed, contract and private-practice physicians.

For years, the relationship between physicians and administrators had been transactional and disconnected at best. “We had a mess. Conway’s medical community was in disarray,” said Dr. Greg Kendrick, former Chief of Staff. Rebekah Fincher, Chief Administrative Officer, agreed: “We were focused on checking boxes with regard to how the medical staff governed themselves rather than true engagement and conversation.”

As frustration grew, physicians took the drastic step of recruiting their peers to build a new hospital in the same market. “It got to the point where they borrowed money, had a plan in place, and were getting ready to build the new hospital,” said Kendrick.

For new CEO Matt Troup, the threat of that possibility was alarming: “Some of our projections showed we could lose 40% of our revenue,” he recalled.

Earning trust, driving engagement

Committed to cultivating a true partnership with physicians, Troup called on MEDI Leadership to guide that transformation. “We knew our physicians were absolutely key and we had shared values. Those physicians, just like us, wanted a strong hospital,” he said.

The transformation started with Conway executive leaders, one by one, as MEDI coaches learned each individual’s strengths, communications preferences, and the ways they make decisions. As each leader refined their leadership skills and passed new habits and insights to their teams, MEDI coaches accelerated that work through intentional team building.

For Kendrick, real-time interactions were key benefits of coaching. “When I had check-ins with Lee Angus, we’d talk about some issue that I was dealing with at the time and he would use the tools that we had discussed to work through that problem,” he explained. “Following our conversation, I could put the plan we discussed into action. It is such a better way of learning than just hearing or reading about it.”

For Troup, a key lesson was how to operate in an environment of partnership with physicians. “From the beginning we had to have a completely new way of thinking,” added Fincher. “We truly started with a blank slate. We wanted something new, something everyone wanted to be a part of to create Accountable Care Management (ACM),” she explained. “We started coming together [with physicians] in brainstorming sessions to outline our vision. What could this be? What would we like to see?”

Transformation delivered

Over time, Conway’s efforts were rewarded as physician engagement grew and relationships blossomed. “Regardless of roles, titles or status, when we come to the table, physicians, administrators and staff are all working toward the same thing,” said Fincher.

That engagement has a trickle-down effect across the organization, notes Kendrick: “If staff sees doctors acting in a certain manner, they follow suit. [The collaboration] had a very positive impact on our patient care.”

Kendrick credits Troup with making that possible: “Matt built that trust very purposefully and it’s the foundation for what we’ve achieved here.”

With distrust behind them, so are barriers to Conway’s growth, said Troup: “We’re talking about things we never thought were possible before; specialties we never had in this community before are now thriving,” he concludes. “It makes you feel you’re doing something good, something memorable, and you’re part of something really special.” 

>> Listen to Troup, Kendrick and Fincher in their own words:

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About the author

Deena Fischer, MA, ACC

A certified executive coach, Deena Fischer, MA, ACC leads business development and operations for MEDI Leadership.

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