Blog | Friday, March 10, 2017

3 questions hospital administrators keep asking


A few years ago, I was in a position where I was fast going down the route of hospital administration. I thought it was interesting at first, but quickly realized it wasn't quite my cup of tea, at least in the circumstances that I was previously exposed to. What I didn't like most about it was the feeling that I was losing touch with the frontlines. Wherever my career takes me, that's something I simply never want to do. It's a shame that for so many hospital administrators across the country, it's an “us versus them” mentality. It doesn't have to be that way. A totally different attitude is needed.
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Here are 3 questions that keep on making hospital administrators scratch their heads:

1. Why can't we improve patient satisfaction?
Giving our patients a better experience is really not rocket science. It requires a back to basics approach of addressing issues such as reduced noise (especially at night), comfortable rooms, more palatable food, and clarity on wait times. Human communication is paramount. It's not about funky tech apps, tacky slogans, or adding a new expensive layer of administration. Get away from viewing patient satisfaction as a “bumper sticker” and look at what the highly rated institutions are doing right.

2. Why is that quality improvement initiative failing?
It sounded like such a good idea when it started, but failed miserably. There are probably lots of reasons for this including lack of frontline buy-in (could be doctors or nurses), a loss of energy and enthusiasm, or being disheartened by initial unsatisfactory results. Go back to the drawing board and look at all of these possibilities, especially having physicians on board with the project.

3. Why are doctors not cooperating with us?
Probably one of the biggest questions asked. Let me re-phrase: Why should doctors cooperate with you? Physicians are among the busiest, most highly educated and hard-working professionals out there. You as an administrator need to make clear with exemplary communication why you want things to happen. Explain in understandable ways and be honest. If the reality is that the hospital is losing lots of money by not doing something, show the doctors the figures. If you need to tick boxes to avoid hefty fines, do the same again. But don't just leave it as “this needs to happen for the organization”. Appreciate that doctors are already unbelievably rushed off their feet, and if necessary, throw in an incentive for all the extra work—just as you would expect for yourself.

With the health care pendulum swinging towards more physicians being employees in recent years, the need for administrators and doctors to work together is greater than ever. There is unfortunately so much distrust at the moment, much of it unnecessary. If you are a health care leader, the advice is the same as for any form of leadership: strive to be thoughtful, show empathy, always lead by example, and above all else—be an excellent communicator.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care. This post originally appeared at his blog.