5 Keys to Better Collaboration in Healthcare
Collaboration is the key to better outcomes and a stronger workplace, but it can be hard to implement. There are several barriers to building collaboration in healthcare, but HR is in the perfect position to address them. Now is the time for healthcare HR leaders to improve collaboration among executives, managers, employees and departments.
“HR can be the leaders in demonstrating a collaborative way of working with other support departments. That’s how you make yourself indispensable in HR,” says Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer at Greatness Magnified, a consulting firm that works with healthcare organizations.
Here are some ideas for improving collaboration in healthcare.
1. Remove Barriers in Your Organizational Culture
Healthcare tends to rely on the way it has done things in the past, and institutional culture can hinder collaboration. Healthcare is mired in cumbersome processes, McVanel says, so reviewing processes and policies is a key first step in helping build a culture of collaboration.
For example, “HR could do a better job than the ‘death by meeting’ culture in healthcare,” she says. Reducing the number of people in meetings and providing action-oriented agendas rather than discussion sessions can help free people’s time to focus on working together more effectively.
2. Encourage a Change in Perspective
The point of healthcare is to solve people’s health problems — injuries, diseases and so on. But that can cause people in all positions to take a “problem-based” approach to work, McVanel says. “They identify problems and look for solutions,” she says, and that can lead to a “firefighting” mentality that doesn’t leave room for learning from other teams or providers.
Approaching budgeting, staffing and care from a “solutions-based” perspective can give people the space to work collaboratively to find solutions that improve outcomes, McVanel says. Look for ways to help departments get out of crisis mode by giving them the opportunity to work on cross-departmental teams, for example, and to learn more about the way other departments operate.
3. Encourage Transparency
The increasingly complex process of providing reliable and safe care calls for more consultation across care providers, says Rod Brace, an executive coach who has served as a hospital CEO and regional president for a major health system. But fear of punishment or disinterest can keep people from speaking up and offering their own ideas or criticisms.
“Collaboration is difficult due to the historical nature of physician-directed care in which caregivers do not adequately offer their insights and opinions,” Brace says. “A culture of trust and transparency must be created in which all caregivers are given an opportunity to share in the care and decision making.” Transparency starts at the top, so HR should help oversee the creation of a transparent workplace.
4. Hold People Accountable
The role collaboration plays in delivering quality outcomes and reducing readmission rates is critical to long-term success, says Heidi Jannenga, Co-Founder and President of WebPT, a rehab therapy software platform. As a result, everyone must be seen and treated as stakeholders within the organization so they can work together to achieve those outcomes, she says.
HR can use its strengths as communicators to ensure everyone understands their role as stakeholders within the organization. A strong organizational mission and engagement initiatives that tie employees’ work to business goals can help establish the accountability that true stakeholders have in the organization. Being stakeholders will help all employees work toward the common goal, Jannenga says.
5. Celebrate Collaboration
The healthcare industry tends to reward and recognize employees’ length of service and roles, such as anniversary awards or “Nurses Week,” McVanel says. But rewarding collaboration will show employees it’s also important and should be something they strive for. Collaboration is probably already happening at your organization — it’s just not being recognized, she says.
Achievements such as new protocols, IT innovations or funding formulas are all examples of collaborative work that could be recognized, McVanel says. “HR can be real instigators and remind people that it’s time to celebrate; it’s worthy of acknowledgement — particularly when they do it so well it becomes a leading practice,” she says. Facilitating peer-to-peer recognition can help as well.
Collaboration isn’t always easy, but today’s healthcare delivery requires it. HR has a strong role to play in building collaboration and can help healthcare organizations reap the benefits.