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    MGMA Staff Members

    New MGMA report: Behavior modeling, communication, engagement and empowerment play key roles

    Burnout is a nationwide crisis among healthcare workers. More than half of U.S. physicians experience professional burnout. Likewise alarming, in many states a talent shortage is on the upsurge for qualified healthcare workers to fill critical positions.

    These two developments are at pivotal crossroads in the United States, as many physicians leave the medical field mid-career, aging Baby Boomers retire, and hospitals and health networks expand.

    While overwork, emotional exhaustion, negative attitudes, loss of drive and other syndromes certainly lead to burnout, it’s important to acknowledge that a practice’s organizational culture may be a core contributing factor.

    Buoyed by the severity of MGMA Stat poll data and the industrywide need to address the challenges in overcoming burnout, MGMA has made the worsening epidemic a strategic focus. The Association has directed its resources to engage provider members and association leaders from across the country to create a solution aimed at reinvigorating the physician administrator-patient relationship.

    A new Research & Analysis report, Factors of a Positive Practice Culture: Behavior Modeling, Communication, Engagement & Empowerment, details practical and proven strategies, insights and a plethora of resources covering four key employee-specific workplace areas:
    1.            Behavior modeling
    2.            Communication
    3.            Engagement
    4.            Empowerment

    Medical practices can alleviate burnout and promote an environment of well-being that consistently supports joy, purpose and meaning in medicine by building strength in these four areas.

    The report, available to MGMA DataDive users, recommends the following:

    Behavior modeling

    It’s important for leaders to live the values of the organization. As Shelly Waggoner, MS, CEBS, SHRM-SCP, vice president, Human Resources, MGMA, says, “The reality is that staff are looking toward the leaders of the organization to model the way. In doing so, it creates a sense of trust and engagement from staff, which increases morale and retention, and ultimately leads to organizational success.”

    To build a positive organizational culture, practice leaders must be able to model appropriate behaviors. As integral members of the organization, practice administrators are the biggest influencers shaping leadership behavior modeling with culture, mission, values and general strategic direction of the organization, commented Waggoner.

    “Possessing strong leadership and communication skills, practice managers learn what motivates each individual, and they influence the entire team by ensuring conflicts are addressed and the office runs smoothly,” she notes. “Effective practice management of different personalities alleviates the associated frustration.”


    A key to keeping employees satisfied is providing opportunities for them to ask questions and provide input. As an aspect of building a positive culture, open and transparent communication helps employees understand the rationale behind decisions made, including the expected benefits. Taking this extra leadership step will enhance an employee’s satisfaction and engagement, which then affects performance, says Deron Schriver, chief financial officer, Susquehanna Valley Women’s Health Care, York, Pa.

    “When people understand why they are doing what they are doing, as opposed to just being told what to do, they are more likely to be empowered to make certain decisions that impact the patient experience and care in a good way,”

    he says. “Employees should know the context behind the decision,” and leaders should provide appropriate context to their employees. “All of these things go hand in hand, giving meaning and a purpose to work. In fact, ‘why’ is the most important question in our society.”


    Engaged employees contribute to sustain-able organizational effectiveness. Employee engagement is defined as the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization and put discretionary effort into their work.

    “At the end of the day, staff engagement is … a willingness to, in every experience, cause a moment of delight … a staff member who walks into their role and responsibility, who identifies whoever their customer is, with an intention to delight,” says Deb Wiggs, FACMPE, Past Chair of MGMA Board of Directors, and CEO and transformationist, V2V Management Solutions.

    The emotional element of office communication speaks to our basic need of feeling valued and included. If an employee has a positive emotional connection built on trust and respect for the organization, he or she is more energized and willing to put forth the extra effort to meet business goals — and your medical practice will thrive.

    The report recommends employee engagement opportunities, including:
    •             Marking work milestones and personal wins
    •             Celebrating birthdays, seasonal events and holidays
    •             Holding events such as a monthly potluck lunch, movie night or bowling
    •             Organizing wellness events
    •             Hosting a motivational speaker


    A workplace that encourages creativity and autonomy gives employees, practice leaders and managers a sense of purpose, belonging and empowerment. Collaborative and supportive medical environments improve connection and trust with staff members, ultimately improving the patient experience.

    Creating a sustainable culture that promotes empowerment of employees begins by leading, coaching and mentoring the next generation of clinical and practice managers.

    In her coaching of practice owners, physician leaders and administrators, Melissa Phillippi, co-founder and president, Performance Culture, often hears one common complaint: There’s just not enough time to spend mentoring subject matter experts, such as nurse practitioners or physician specialists, to management level.

    “Don’t let their careers cap out. Make a career path that is equal for the individual contributor. It takes work but must be done,” Phillippi insists. “We’ve got to get creative and look at mentoring long term as a marathon, not as a sprint. If we can duplicate and scale operational excellence and efficiency in other areas, then we can invest in people as part of our day as managers. Your practice can build up the organizational structure to actually make mentoring an ‘expected’ — not ‘accepted’ — practice of someone’s job.”

    Dig Deeper

    MGMA DataDive users enjoy free access to the new Research & Analysis report, Factors of a Positive Practice Culture: Behavior Modeling, Communication, Engagement & Empowerment. To learn more about MGMA research reports, visit
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