Alignment is the catch-all term used to describe a myriad of business relationships, organizational structures and shared cultures – all geared toward bringing hospitals and physicians into one line that is coordinated and accountable. With the healthcare sector’s rising share of the economy expected to reach 19.3% of the GDP by the end of the decade, leaders of all disciplines anticipate changes in reimbursement that are value-based or global payments.
As evidenced by the burgeoning trend of hospitals buying up physician practices – because they “want to essentially lock in volume, inpatient and outpatient” – hospitals recognize the need to communicate and give voice to physicians, and physicians value the stability hospitals offer. Today more physicians are at the decision-making table with administrators because there are clear incentives for delivering quality care effectively through aligning physician and delivery system interests.
Most of the stories I hear from physicians describe a huge void between physicians and administrators. Instead of a free flow of information and mutual trust, with goals being met quickly, there is often suspicion and a “need to know” communication policy. Working as a team is known to be a good idea but in reality, the players are working from their own domains instead of considering big-picture outcomes.
One Thing that Changes Everything is trust. A key principle Steven Covey details in his recent book (The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything) is the formula: (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. “Trust always affects two outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes up, speed goes up and cost goes down.”
Maybe you have already experienced that in a low-trust relationship you can be very precise in your communication but still run the risk of being misinterpreted. How frustrating is that? The next time you are sitting around the table with one or twenty, practice these trust building skills.
Establish and maintain integrity. This means, among other things, keeping promises and always telling the truth, no matter how difficult it might be. Nothing confuses people faster than inconsistency or withheld information. When the communication channels shut down – both top-down and bottom-up – rumors start and misinformation is believed to be real.
Communicate vision and values. Be clear up front about the common vision and values. In most cases you already agree on the end result. Your values will help you align with how to get there.
Consider all players as equal partners. Trust is established when even the newest rookie, a part-timer, or the lowest paid feels important and part of the conversation. Be open-minded to all perspectives, as an unwillingness to consider other ideas and points of view and/or to create an atmosphere of, “it’s going to be my way or the highway,” will cut-off communication.
Focus on shared, rather than personal goals. When administration can feel that everyone is pulling together to accomplish a shared vision, rather than a series of personal agendas, trust results. This is the essence of teamwork. You will quickly lose the respect and trust of others if you are overly focused on your personal agenda.
Use the ideas above to assess what next step you can take to align your interest with administration. The benefit will be not only better results, faster but also a stronger relationship to support your next interaction. Each step you take in this direction will build more trust.