How to Talk to Senior Leaders About a Corporate Physician Wellness Strategy

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

POPPodcastTEXTSimpleJust how do you begin a conversation with your senior leadership team about building out a Corporate Physician Wellness Strategy?

What is the best way to bring up the staggering costs of physician burnout and the benefits of a corporate physician wellness strategy -- if your senior leaders are not already engaged in this dialog?

We have supported hundreds of doctors around the world who act as physician wellbeing insurgents in their organization - working hard to get the attention of the C-Suite on the need for a burnout prevention strategy at the level of the organization. 

Learn from our 10 years and over 175 organization experience in these critically important discussions. 

In Physicians On Purpose (POP) Podcast #18...

    • Learn how to start the conversation on a level playing field of shared understanding.
    • Learn the 3 competitive advantages of physician wellbeing.
    • Learn where to get backup and support on HOW to get started on your organizations strategy.
All in ... POP PODCAST #25:

Talking With Senior Leaders about a Corporate Physician Wellness Strategy



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“I think that In the very near future the most successful organizations will be the ones who take the best care of their doctors.  I actually believe physician wellness is a disruptive innovation in health care."  - Dike Drummond MD


  • (02:20) Physician burnout as the origin of challenges
  • (03:24) Questions to ask senior leaders
  • (05:32) Triple competitive advantage
  • (08:25) Window of opportunity
  • (09:32) Support from The Happy MD




What is your organization's wellness strategy for physicians?
How is that working for you and your colleagues?
What happens when you talk to your senior leaders about physician wellbeing?



Hello, Dr. Dike Drummond hear at the home of in beautiful Seattle, Washington with the latest edition of the Physicians On Purpose Podcast. Today I'm flying solo, what I want to do is take a little bit of time to talk about how you, if you're not the CEO or the CMO of your organization, how you might begin the conversation around a corporate physician wellness strategy for your organization; if you're trying to push this agenda from something other than a senior leadership position.

Over the last 10 years at the happy MD, we've talked to 1000's of different folks inside organizations who want to make a difference for the physicians, the APPS, the staff in the organization. And if you're not in a senior leadership position, that can be difficult. I call that an INSURGENCY POSITION. And right now we're supporting several dozen people who are in insurgency positions, as they begin to, to approach the subject of physician wellness with their senior leadership team.

If you ARE a CEO or a CMO, and you come to me and you want to do something about physician wellness, typically, we can get started right away, and we can move really fast. But my experience is this over 10 years, it's only about 5% of senior leaders in healthcare, who are aware of physician wellness, as an influence on the care quality in their organization, to the extent that they'll do something about it.

Now, they're focused on all sorts of other things, but typically not on physician wellness, quality, safety, medical errors, retention, recruitment, all that kind of stuff. But what we know this: physician burnout is the origin of challenges with all of those metrics -- quality, safety, turnover, right, all related to burnout. And what I try to do is get senior leaders to see that if we treat the cause, we probably won't have to work so hard to treat each individual one of those symptoms.

So how do you begin this conversation? Let me give you some ideas.

And let me tell you that I believe there's a window coming in the wake of COVID. Right now, it's may 21, of 2021. And it appears that we're approaching the end of the COVID tunnel, the ICU’s are not empty of COVID patients, but vaccination rates are up and disease rates are down. And we're starting to immunize people as young as 12. So we may be near the end of that of that long, dark tunnel. But right now, I believe we're approaching a window where more senior leaders than ever before will be open to the concept of taking better care of the doctor. I'll tell you why in just a second.

So if you want to start having a conversation, here are some questions to get you started.
And you have to be very careful with your energy here. Because it's easy to get kind of snarky with these. And it's also easy to blurt and not let your senior leader answer. So you have to actually ask a question and then be quiet and listen for what they say.

Here's question number one.

“What role do you believe the health and well being of our doctors plays in the quantity and quality of the care they provide?”

Then you've got to be quiet. And there might be a bit of a pause as the leader looks at you and cocks their head like a dog that doesn't know what they're looking at. Until they say, “well, it's really important, obviously. It's a crazy question. Why are you asking it?”

Okay, great. So we agree to the principle of physician wellness, playing a role in quality and quantity.

Here’s question number two.

“So on the profit and loss statement from last year, what line item is dedicated to investing in physician wellness? How much did we spend?”

Again, you've got to watch your energy here, you've got to be quiet, and 99 times out of 100. They're gonna say, “we don't have anything like that. That's crazy. We've never spent money on that.”

Which is the point, right?

Here’s question number three:

“Why is it that we're NOT INVESTING IN the health and wellbeing of our physicians?”

And again, there's going to be a silence, let them let them sit with it until you get an answer. And they may come back at you and say, “Well, why would we want to do that?”

So let me tell you how I answer that question with senior leaders. And feel free to take all these questions and any answer that I give you in adapted to your own language and energy, your own communication style and go out there and have these conversations. Be chill, listen for an answer. You're going to be raising awareness for sure.

Here's why I think that in the very near future, the most successful organizations will be the ones who take the best care of their doctors. I actually believe physician wellness is a disruptive innovation in healthcare. It's not rocket science, it's just that most organizations don't focus on this as a leverage point for their performance.

I believe that a happier, healthier workforce of doctors provides a TRIPLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE to the organization.

Triple competitive advantage, okay, let's go through them.

1) Your people, your institution, your care sites will become the PROVIDER OF CHOICE of healthcare in your area to two very important groups:

a) You'll be the provider of choice to the patients, because when the people are happier and healthier, taking care of me as a patient, I'm going to notice that difference the minute I walk in the building, and

b) You will become the provider of choice to the payers. Because as you take better care of your people, the quality indicators the payers are tracking will naturally float up and put you at the top.

So patients and payers will see you as the provider of choice when you have a superior culture and systems and your people are happier and healthier.

2) You beome the EMPLOYER OF CHOICE for any physician who is looking to take a job in your area.

maybe they have a practice, and they're looking to sell and come in as an employee, maybe they're a new graduate and they're looking for a place to get their first job. You will be the employer of choice because as they ask around the community, doctors will say yeah, they take pretty good care of us here.

3) Last but not least, is I believe that because of all the positive effects of a happier, healthier workplace, including retention and engagement, right? quality safety, lower turnover. What that means is that a happier, healthier workforce will produce an organization that is MORE NIMBLE AND PROFITABLE AND STABLE than the competition.

So that when the time comes in the not too distant future where inevitably every organization is going to have to make the leap to accepting value based payments and capitation. When it's time to make that leap. Your people, when your CEO says it's time to jump, everybody will say “HOW HIGH?” and not “GET LOST”.

You're going to want that superior culture and that engagement and that healthier, happier workforce when that time for that big switch happens.

So why do I think there's a window of opportunity here?

Well, I think there is a small percentage of senior leaders in healthcare in the USA, who as we exit the COVID crisis, have been inspired – awe struck - or as they say, in England, “gobsmacked” by the, by the contribution and the dedication and the sheer hard work of the doctors, nurses and staff of the organization that they run. And in the wake of COVID. They're saying in themselves, “Oh, my Lord, wasn't that amazing the way our people performed? We really have to figure out a way to take better care of them.”

Just remember, physician burnout rates were at 50%. Before COVID. They're certainly higher now. Some of the preliminary testing is showing that.

But there will be a small percentage for a short period of time, I will say between now and the end of 2021. There'll be a small group of senior leaders where if you begin this conversation, we might actually get a few more corporate physician wellness strategies put in play.

And when you want to know how to take better care of your people, we here at and our Corporate Consulting Division, to help you design and deploy wellness strategies and train and deploy wellness champions, through our Quadruple Aim Physician Leadership Retreat. We have 216 retreat graduates to date and are seating another class in September.

So when you and your senior leaders want to talk about how to create a Corporate Physician Wellness Strategy that matches your specific stressors in your system, give us a call at There is a contact form right there on the well on the website.

So, three questions.

"What role do you believe the health and well being of the doctors plays in the quality and quantity of the care they provide?"

"How much did we spend on physician wellness last year?"

"Is there a reason why we don't invest in physician wellness?"


And then the triple competitive advantage is

You become the provider of choice to the patients and the payers,

You become the employer of choice in your region,

Your organization becomes more nimble and stable and profitable than the competition.

So that's a place to start. We've used these questions hundreds in conversations with senior leaders. They are almost always well received and cause a shift in their awareness as long as you keep the conversation going.

And if at any point in time you need support and asking these questions to your senior leaders, or support with your insurgency, contact us through the website,

So there you go, the window is coming. Practice your questions and go ask them.

So this has been Dike Drummond, MD at in beautiful Seattle, Washington. Keep breathing and have a great rest of your day.



Tags: Physician Leadership, stop physician burnout, physicians on purpose podcast