Friday, March 9, 2007

Healthcare Communication from Bill Ives

Great post from Bill Ives on Collaboration in Healthcare.

Collaborate for Success: Great Resource for Physician-Hospital Collaboration

I recently had a chance to look more closely at Ken Cohn’s Collaborate for Success! Breakthrough Strategies for Engaging Physicians, Nurses, and Hospital Executives. Today’s healthcare providers are often asked to do more with less to the detriment of both them and their patients. This book enables physicians and other healthcare providers to reflect, reframe assumptions, and collaborate to achieve outcomes that they cannot accomplish when operating in silos. As an occasional patient married to a healthcare provider, I know that both sides need this type of help.

Ken is a board-certified general surgeon dividing his time providing surgical coverage in New Hampshire and Vermont and working as a consultant at Cambridge Management Group. CMG specializes in resolving physician-physician and physician-administration communication issues. He has been exploring this theme for some time. Ken’s first book, Better Communication for Better Care: Mastering Physician-Administrator Collaboration, appeared in 2005.
The first three chapters of Collaborate for Success! debunk the frequently held assumption that healthcare professionals act principally out of self-interest and thus merit suspicion and careful supervision. As Tom Davenport as argued well in Thinking for a Living, knowledge workers do not respond well when they are closely managed. They excel when they are inspired to act in the best interest of the whole. Healthcare professionals are no exception to this fact.

The next six chapters offer field-tested strategies that can boost collaboration, revenue, safety, and satisfaction to create win-win strategies for docs, nurses, hospital administrators, and the patients. The final two chapters discuss new web-based approaches that can help build virtual communities of practice among healthcare professionals who do not see each other often but nonetheless need to remain in contact.

I was pleased to be a co-author with Ken and Glen Mohr on one of these last two chapters, Building Community and Collaboration with Blogs. In this chapter we outline a case example where Glen and Ken worked with a major health care facility. Kathleen Gilroy was also involved with the project. Here a senior advisory panel of physicians faced the task of developing strategic recommendations for the next five years. They met regularly and heard presentations for all major department heads. A blog platform was created to record meeting minutes, link to key documents, provide a means to record their observations of current work processes, and allow for commentary by panel members on these meetings, documents, and observations. Access was limited to panel members, but the blog made it available on a 24/7 basis from any terminal in the hospital, office, or home.

The blog thus allowed panel members to interact outside the meetings, as new ideas surfaced and new issues appeared. The secure, password-protected site allowed members to engage in candid discussion. The blog also provided a convenient distribution point for downloading and commenting on material relevant to department presenters and their reports. The best came at the end as the blog’s search engine facilitated the creation of final report writing. A large amount of data had accumulated in eight months of meetings. Panel members could now search the archive to find recurring themes, as well as specific comments and examples that otherwise might have faded in memory or have been too time-consuming to locate in the minutes or reports buried in emails. The report was completed more efficiently and with greater use of all the data to achieve a more comprehensive, consensus-based set of recommendations. As one panel member said, “Having this organizational tool allowed me to recognize important themes that were relevant to the majority of the medical staff.” It also provides a simple and clear instance of the benefits of taking the new, more open, web tools and techniques inside the enterprise. Glen Mohr provides some more detail in his blog.

This chapter is one example of the practical advice and concrete examples that are offered through out the book. I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with the complexities of providing quality healthcare in a cost effective manner in today’s climate, in other words almost everyone involved

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