10 Insights into Physician Behavior to Increase Engagement - Part 1

Understanding physician behavior is the first step in increasing physician engagement. BroadcastMed provides physicians around the nation with the opportunity to participate in surveys on a weekly basis, and the data we gather provides valuable information to more effectively measure and understand physician behavior. For companies creating content geared toward physicians, this insight can be invaluable in discovering how to tailor content of all types for the greatest engagement. See the first part of our findings from our recent surveys below.

1. Digital Content

Digital content is an important part of how physicians engage in patient care, education, and communication. BroadcastMed’s recent surveys indicate a high level of engagement with digital content for continuing education. Digital content includes video, podcasts, online articles, or blog posts. However, physicians mostly focus their efforts on consuming information through online continuing medical education (CME) courses. 

  • 43.4% of physicians used CME and online courses in 2020

  • 43.3% of physicians used CME and online courses in 2021

With only a 0.1% variance from 2020 to 2021, it is evident that physicians prefer online education as a primary source of CME and digital content. Interestingly, video is not ranked as high for content consumption:

  • Average of 9.71% video content engagement of surveyed physicians between 2020 and 2021

  • Significant decrease in the interest of video-based learning between 2017 and 2021, from 56% to 34.3%

The landscape of online, digital education and content is growing, but for the healthcare industry, the content type clearly matters and is evident in our collected survey data. 

2. Patient Referrals

Referrals are a critical component of operations for a healthcare organization, as they provide a crucial link between primary and specialty care, diagnostic testing, surgery, and cancer care. Referrals can “keep the doors open” by bringing new patients to a private practice, and providing patients access to specialty care. Patients also rely on referrals to ensure that care is delivered in a timely manner.

Keeping referrals within a health system is important as communication is coordinated and creates a cohesive foundation of care not only for the patient, but the care team in the health system. Primary and specialty care physicians in the same health system will use the same electronic health record (EHR), which creates a baseline of collaboration between care teams. 

The data from the BroadcastMed Physician Engagement Survey suggests that physicians are pressured by their health system to keep referrals in-house. The November 2021 survey results outline that 60.9% of surveyed physicians believe the standard or quality of care is potentially lowered by keeping referrals within a health system, and 44.8% feel pressured to keep referrals within their health system. 

Insurance is a factor, as keeping referrals within a health system ensures that patients are seen by in-network providers. However, the high percentage indicated on this survey shows that regardless of preference on the part of the physician or patient, physicians feel pressured, and may not trust the outcomes when referring to a specialty provider in the same system. 

Marketing is also a significant part of keeping referrals flowing, especially for new organizations or private practices. Target marketing, an effective SWOT analysis, and a focus on the demographics of the community and their needs tie in closely with the success of a marketing campaign. Physicians surveyed in 2019 show a compelling 44.36% dissatisfaction rate related to their marketing department’s ability to keep referrals flowing, which correlates with a demand for improved marketing within an organization. 

3. OR Efficiency

Efficiency in the operating room is critical; from the pre-op team to the PACU, everything is a checklist item and requires a high level of attention from licensed professionals. Efficiency means that details are not missed, but processes can always be improved to ensure that efficiency is always maintained. The data BroadcastMed gleaned from the Physician Engagement Surveys indicates that over half of the surveyed physicians believe OR efficiency in their organization is good (55.3%), but better access to training for clinical support staff in the OR could factor into an increase in efficiency (63.4%). 

There are also barriers that block efficiency in the OR - administrative issues create challenges that are easily fixed with engaged leadership and effective management, such as scheduling, establishing open communication with staff, or avoiding delays with start times. Surveyed physicians ranked administrative issues as the number one challenge or complication related to OR efficiency (45.3%). 

4. Virtual Education and CME (Continuing Medical Education)

Many organizations have placed restrictions on traveling for CME, leaving physicians with the option to engage in virtual courses or conferences. Virtual education is seemingly popular as it provides physicians with convenience and the ability to save money on travel, hotel, and rental car costs, with 37.2% of surveyed physicians noting convenience as the biggest benefit to virtual learning and training. 

During the pandemic, 41.5% of surveyed physicians engaged in virtual content related to CME, with 50.2% believing that virtual education programs are the “new norm” in the industry. On demand courses are increasingly popular, with 69.08% of physicians more likely to complete an on-demand course versus a live session. 

Virtual CME has established itself as a viable, quality option for physician education. The accessibility of an online education session suits a physician’s packed schedule, so the ability to engage in education that does not take them away from home is highly desirable. The pandemic has also provided a pathway for physicians to make a choice when it comes to virtual or on-site education - 41.5% of physicians indicate that they will combine their options for live and virtual sessions, but are leaning towards more virtual education in the future. 

5. COVID’s Impact on Practices

COVID has had a lasting effect on the healthcare industry, changing the landscape of inpatient and outpatient care. Both hospitals and private practices have experienced the impact of lost revenue, staffing shortages, and even the quality of patient care. 

The BroadcastMed survey included COVID-related questions that focused on how physicians view the impact of the pandemic on their hospital or practice. Interestingly, in the first year of the COVID-19 crisis, surveyed physicians rated the effect of their workload evenly between “greatly increased” and “moderately increased” at 25.39%, indicated a high perception of increased COVID-related workload and patient care. 

Conversely, the work from home options that many hospitals and practices implemented in the beginning and throughout the pandemic have had a lasting, positive effect on the overall operations of the healthcare industry. The first months of the pandemic had many healthcare professionals working virtually or from home; 62.27% of surveyed physicians rated this as a positive impact, but in-office visits are projected to decrease from the viewpoint of 30.71% of surveyed physicians. These decreases could cause loss of revenue, staffing, and ultimately threaten the closure of smaller practices. 

The impact on patients is considerably different. 59.4% of physicians believe that the surge of the Delta variant of COVID in early 2021 negatively impacted the clinical treatment of patients.

Increasing physician engagement begins with understanding physician behavior. Stay tuned for part 2 or our Physician Survey findings. 

Are you ready to take your content to the next level? To learn more about our tools or services, contact BroadcastMed today.