Health care organizations are sometimes resistant to change and yet in search of change all at the same time. Across the country, large health systems, academic medical centers and community hospitals continue to seek out ways to maximize operations, improve financial performance and deliver high quality patient care.
Engaging in meaningful dialogue, mining for opportunities and successfully executing deliverables are what we all strive for, regardless of what our role may be. In our pursuit of what to change or how to improve, we may forget some of the simple and straightforward ways to build successful business relationships. Consider the following objectives I’ve chosen to focus on:
Identify who can help you and who can hurt you. This holds true both within your own department and with key, external stakeholders you collaborate with on a regular basis. Consider scheduling pre-meetings with your champions before addressing the entire team. Champions are good listeners, they have the ability to separate small and insignificant barriers from those that actually matter, and they are generally open to new ideas. Just a five- to 10-minute conversation can align expectations and prepare you for potential roadblocks or negative feedback, along with providing an opportunity to strategize ways to handle any difficult conversations that may arise. If you identify individuals who have the potential to jeopardize your progress, take a step back and look at issues from their perspective while trying to understand what they want, why they want it and how you can help them while at the same time still advancing your team’s objectives.
If improving efficiency faces barriers, focus on installing small improvements at opportune times. As an example, if you cannot write and obtain approval for a policy to address contract price increases, focus on training staff members to negotiate with the goal of eliminating or mitigating price increases even if an established process is not in place. Track your progress and successes with the goal of presenting them to leadership. Setting these expectations for staff will alleviate negative reactions to culture change down the road once price increase policies are designed, approved and implemented.
Plan for the short- and long-term future to encourage success. Leave every situation better than you found it — be it a routine contract negotiation, capital purchase or the overall reporting structure within a department. Be willing to share your successes and experiences with other like-minded professionals that can assist them in maintaining best practices during the time you are engaged and beyond. Let’s say you were brought into a new role as interim director of contracting and your immediate supervisor gave you a goal of establishing a contract signature authority policy for the supply chain department.
Like the example above, you could plan for the short term by training staff to negotiate any price increases while you work on the long-term future that will outline the new policy. The new policy would set dollar commitment levels for buyers, contract managers, and up the reporting chain, based on annual spend and term limits. It would also include approval rules for any increases presented to the health system. During meetings, consider sharing examples of when you successfully eliminated or mitigated price increases, ultimately rolling out the new policy that will establish and enable these successful behaviors in the present and in the future, should you move on from the interim role.
Strengthen relationships. No matter what department or business area you focus on, we have all seen low morale and differences in opinion stagnate overall progress. When a climate like this exists, seek an opportunity to solidify relationships from within your organization. Understanding other’s point of view is critical, and a way to achieve this is to practice excellent listening skills. Allow colleagues to finish speaking once they start and to finish thoughts before interjecting your own ideas. A lot can be learned from observing quietly. Have respect for those who scheduled time in their day for you by being attentive and not being distracted by technology or the statement that has been repeating in your head that you just want to say out loud.
Always see through assignments. Regardless of the level of importance, do what you say you’ll do and be a pleasant human being along the way. The reality is every assignment you are given will not allow you to use the fresh new skill set you learned at the latest conference or provide you with a sense of overwhelming accomplishment. Sometimes making a phone call to a nursing manager or supply rep, or obtaining a budgetary quote for a new construction project will mean a lot more to those who requested it than it will to you. Put every assignment into perspective and you can gain and maintain a positive reputation among your peers, leadership and external partners, setting you up to find success!
Collaboration can prove challenging during the accelerated pace of change our industry faces. Taking time to reevaluate and adjust your own approach to people is key to setting and meeting positive goals. Try practicing at least one of these objectives. The only thing it may change is your perspective, but that just might lead to success.
About the author. In his role as a consultant on the advisory solutions – supply chain operations team, Drew Fiorante provides support services to member organizations as a dedicated resource for contract management and supply chain improvement initiatives. He partners with member representatives in identifying actionable cost reduction opportunities across all service lines. With more than 12 years of industry experience in contract management, strategic sourcing and medical equipment technology planning, Fiorante has an accomplished background consulting between key stakeholders including medical equipment manufacturers, vendors, general contractors, architects, and health care supply chain professionals and administrators.