Discussion of the duties of healthcare leaders may seem like striking the same drum time and again. However, unlike that repetitive rhythmic selection, the topic of leadership doesn’t quickly become boring if, for no other reason, the challenges facing those who manage healthcare organizations are immense and constantly shifting.
Anyone in the field is aware of the challenges represented by cost containment, patient outcomes, and regulatory changes and expansions. Leading an organization through these mazes to eventual success is difficult. There are major obstacles, according to Robert Pearl, a large medical group CEO, practicing physician, and business school professor. Pearl mentioned the conservative nature of medical personnel, but it would be easy to add others, such as competing demands on the organization and medical challenges. There are ways leaders can get beyond them and see greater success.
To lead groups of professionals starts with getting beyond the head alone, according to Pearl. Emotion is an important part of the human experience and medical personnel are not magically inured against its influence. For example, Pearl mentions a presentation on patient safety that started with a discussion of medical errors and the consequences that patients and their families faced as a result.
Managers should be seen, not just heard
Executives and managers make a mistake when they think their job is to tell people what to do. More often it really involves being around workers and listening to the problems they see and face. Leaders should make regular rounds to see employees and find out what their concerns and issues are. At the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, physician and now CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation Tejal Gandhi made regular rounds to discuss safety concerns. The impact on culture was significant, but that can only happen when leaders act on what they hear.
Create a culture of empowerment
Depending on leaders to do everything for an organization is neither wise nor effective. The rapid rate of change in healthcare, and the world at large, means that organizations have to act quickly. To get the necessary speed of operations, people at all levels of the provider must have the authority and responsibility to adapt to new conditions. People must be empowered to help patients, strengthen relationships with other organizations and companies, and improve operation and execution to drive efficiency and effectiveness. Empowerment is the way to let them do their jobs, and that result is as basic as leadership gets.
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