September 10, 2022

Taking the 35k ft. Elevation View as a Physician Advisor

Steve Philip, Medical Director of Advisory Services at Sound Physicians, found his way to Physician Advisory Services through a career in Hospital Medicine. He joined Sound Physicians in 2007, where he started as a Hospitalist in Ventura, California, after attending the Medical College of Wisconsin and completing his residency at the University in Indianapolis. From there, he grew into the role of Associate Medical Director and later became active in Sound’s Physician Advisory program, where he has preserved a balance between his Hospital Medicine and Physician Advisory duties.

Dr. Philip shared his experience with our organization and some of the unique career opportunities that Sound has to offer its Physician Advisors.

How have Sound’s training opportunities for Physician Advisors helped prepare you for your role?

Probably my best experience with Sound Physicians training regarding being both a Physician Advisor and a Hospitalist was the crucial conversations course through both the hospital medicine side as well as the advisory side. I was very lucky to take the in-person course before Covid hit, so it allowed me to kind of get my feet wet but also understand how to have those conversations and practice them in real-time during the course. It’s probably one of the best training episodes I have had with Sound Physicians in terms of return on investment on time because as a Physician Advisor, having crucial conversations with providers is very, very important and frequently alters hospitalization or shifts the direction of care.

In what way does connecting with team leads and fellow advisors at Sound add to your experience as a Physician Advisor?

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed with my PA group is actually my subgroup with the local Common Spirit providers because we have similar challenges and a similar regulatory environment. We also have a similar working experience with Common Spirit, which is different because our group is a dual group of both Sound Advisory Physician Advisors as well as with Common Spirit. So we have to deal with both sides of the coin if you will. And it’s been helpful to hear the input from their experiences to make my time and thought process a little bit more efficient.

What is the benefit of being an advisor with a physician-led organization?

I think the main benefit of being a PA in a physician-led group organization is that you understand the constraints of your role, and that mitigates some of the pressure that’s placed on your shoulders from the hospital side. The hospital is always going to want its numbers in the direction that it wants, which is generally lower from the length of stay perspective, but there’s only so much that sometimes providers on the ground, as well as a PA, can do. Understanding those limitations is very helpful.

In what way does being a Physician Advisor offer a unique opportunity to participate in patient care?

The biggest positive of being a PA is that you can have other people and other providers benefit from your experience. That’s essentially what your role is – to essentially advise physicians who are having issues or difficult patient situations and, you know, I have over 20 years of experience. One of the things I like doing is teaching providers what they can or should do in a certain situation and to also take the 35,000 ft elevation view of what is actually going on in the patient’s situation. I think sometimes physicians get stuck in narrow issues and don’t see the overall big picture. And that’s one of the good things of having a PA – you can bring those people back in perspective to understand what exactly is going on.

Based on your experience, which skills or qualities help a physician succeed in an Advisory role?

Probably the most important skill to have as a Physician Advisor is the ability to communicate with other providers in a way that is engaging, non-threatening, and non-punitive because ultimately, you can only advise; you can’t direct people on what to do. Sometimes you can try to explain to providers that what they’re doing is not necessarily in the best interests of the patient. Still, frequently they have to realize that themselves before things actually change, and the physician who actually seeks your advice understands that you’re there to provide them with advice. In contrast, the ones that look at you as an antagonistic person may or may not ever turn around, but I think you need to keep the olive branch and the communication lines there.

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