Advice from a Health Care Executive: Cultivating Physician Relations Leads to a Bounty of Benefits for Health Systems

May 24, 2017

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

Ritch K. Eich

Ritch K. Eich

What do the peach orchards of Northern California and most major health systems have in common? There are actually more commonalities than you might think, according to Ritch K. Eich, who worked on several ranches to earn his way through college before going on to build an impressive career that has included serving as vice president, senior vice president, and chairman of the board for a number of hospitals, health systems, and insurers around the country. Over the years he has found himself coming back to the lessons learned working in the orchards to help guide him to success in his roles in various health care settings. He has also chronicled his wealth of experiences in three books, including: Real Leaders Don’t Boss, Leadership Requires Extra Innings, and TRUTH, TRUST + TENACITY. (He donates the proceeds from his books to several charities.)

A Unique Perspective

“I learned much from the operation of a ranch that applies to hospital/health system operations, marketing, public relations, and physician relations,” he explains, offering this unique perspective: “If the ranch is located on fertile land, the grower is industrious, he is selective by purchasing the best young trees from the nursery, he treats the crew of workers respectfully and thoughtfully, and the orchard is well maintained—i.e., the orchard floor conditions are carefully monitored, trees are watered and fertilized correctly, and the peaches are picked at the right time—and the fruit is processed expeditiously,” this means that the grower will likely be successful. Interestingly enough, he says that these concepts really parallel the “Four C’s” of marketing: consumer/client, cost, convenience, and communication.

Beyond these aspects, he says that the industrious people working in the field also make a valuable contribution toward the success of the orchards. This is similar to the essential role that physicians play in their organizations today—and this is a lesson that Eich has made a point to remember in every role he has held since. In fact, he stresses that physician relations should be an important element of any health system’s strategy.

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