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Sergey Gorbatov, PMP

Challenges to Overcome to Operate an Effective Healthcare Organization



By Sergey Gorbatov, PMP



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Original Publish Date: February 6, 2018

The healthcare industry in the United States has transformed and evolved throughout the decades, continuously adapting to changes in regulatory policy, technology, patient preferences and economic climate. Consequently, these factors not only affected the delivery of healthcare as whole, but heavily impacted organizational and operational structures of healthcare companies. Further changes in business operations produced new, or underscored existing challenges with managing organizational behavior and human resources that leaders had to understand and effectively manage to continue operating successful businesses. Borkowski (2011) suggests a set of challenges that leadership would encounter and would need to overcome to operate an effective healthcare organization: (1) diversity of the workforce as it relates to ethnicity, culture, geographical location and age; (2) effectiveness of communication; and (3) ensuring an efficient and productive work environment through appropriate evaluation and management of staff's attitudes. This article will focus on each challenge in greater detail.

With new communication technology allowing organizations to expand their business into virtual environments and employ staff across the globe, unique cultural, ethnic and geographical issues challenge leaders that manage these diverse multinational teams. Similarly, large numbers of immigrants that continue to join the healthcare workforce in the United States, create diversity management challenges for leadership at home. Individuals within a diverse workforce bring unique personal values, beliefs, attitudes and practices to their work environment, which can both positively and negatively affect the organization. From a business management perspective, to ensure the absence of negative conflicts between workers and to promote staff harmony, leadership must make an effort to educate themselves as well as their staff on how to manage bias and understand cultural differences (Borkowski, 2011).

Furthermore, the need for a culturally diverse healthcare workforce is also in part driven by the increasingly diverse patient population that is seeking medical care from culturally aligned healthcare providers. Patient preference for linguistically and culturally similar providers has prompted the development of new standards by the Joint Commission to ensure that treatment quality is not sacrificed, and that care is administered with consideration for language barriers, cultural and economic differences. Consequently healthcare organizations have taken initiatives to implement diversity training or cultural awareness programs to ensure that their management can effectively lead a diverse workforce, while their staff are able to provide appropriate care to the culturally diverse patient base (Scott, 2008).

Effective and successful communication is another challenge that all managers within any organization, not just healthcare, have to overcome. Because communication lies at the foot of all leadership functions, managers must find ways to effectively communicate their messages to staff or their supervisors and ensure accurate dissemination of information. While this topic is complex and much detail can go into its analysis, the core principle of a successful communication lies with the manager's ability to choose the appropriate channel for delivering the message, removing or mitigating potential communication barriers and receiving feedback on the message to ensure the receiver's appropriate understanding. Effective communication happens when a message is delivered using the appropriate channel, for example, an email may be more appropriate to communicate a simple administrative change (such as an installation of a new copy machine) rather than setting up a meeting to deliver the same information.

Removing communication barriers is also crucial to successful understanding of the intended message. Some of these barriers may be environmental, and include time constraints, organizational relationships (for example, manager to subordinate relationship may be impacted due to company culture), or unfamiliar and different terminology used by the communicating parties. Barriers could also be personal in nature, and could include individuals' beliefs, values and prejudices (Borkowski, 2011). Cohn (2011) examines common barriers that frequently occur between physicians and administrative staff within clinical settings. Because of the high level of stress, complexity and time constraints, Cohn suggests that administrators could remove some of these barriers by examining their communication style to ensure a “soft” approach. Respecting the physician's time, working with them to address their problems, showing empathy and understanding their perspective, while communicating respectfully and using tactful negotiating strategies could improve the communication between administrators and physicians and help foster stronger relationships that would benefit organizational effectiveness (Cohn, 2011).

Another challenge for healthcare leadership lies in understanding, managing and directing attitudes and perceptions of their reports. Borkowski explains that a person's attitude is “a complex combination of an individual's personality, beliefs, values, behaviors and motivations” (Borkowski, 2011) which affects how individuals perceive and react to various situations. In addition, attitude, which drives negative or positive behavior, could have a dramatic impact on the individual's work performance and on the organization as a whole. Because effectiveness of an organization is at stake, managers must continuously evaluate and interpret their staff's attitudes to address and correct the negative ones. Borkowski (2011) suggests that giving individuals new information is one avenue for changing their attitudes and behaviors, but it is also important for managers to understand that attitudes have been formed by individuals over their lifetime and change may not be immediate. Other techniques for attitude adjustment may include coaching, counseling, conflict resolution and creating positive or collaborative work environments (Borkowski, 2011). Although, challenging and time consuming, leadership must take steps to ensure that their workforce exhibits a positive attitude in order to effectively run the business, ensure job satisfaction, reduce turnover rates and increase work performance.

References:

Borkowski, N. (2011). Organizational behavior in health care (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Cohn, K. H. (2011). Effective communication builds bridges. Healthcare Executive, 26(5), 84-86.

Sergey Gorbatov is a highly analytical and innovative healthcare professional with over eight years of experience at a local non-profit health plan, focusing on provider, patient and clinical data analytics, medical claims system management, regulatory agency reporting, and project management. He believes that business decisions should be driven by data and that the future of innovation in healthcare lies in finding creative solutions for better utilization of preventative care services through patient education, technology and programs that support the expansion of access to primary care within our communities.