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Hiring Better Collaborators: the Impact on Patient Outcomes

October 27, 2011
Here’s a concrete example of exactly how the behavioral competency of “collaboration” is relevant to hospitals: We were meeting last week with a health system’s nursing leaders.  We started talking about collaboration as a competency and its impact on improving patient length of stay and re-admission rates.

On a larger scale, we talk about it a great deal, particularly in the context of Accountable Care Organizations (“ACOs”).  Success in these integrated delivery models will require new levels of multi-disciplinary collaboration in order to improve the efficiency, efficacy and cost –effectiveness of care for large patient populations. (An interesting White Paper by Cigna on collaborative care models and ACOs)

These nurses had a more immediate need.  Every hospital has put a multi-disciplinary team in a room to reduce length of stay for given group of patients or diagnosis.  Same is true for re-admission rates.  Every hospital has the “workplan” needed to do this –the step-by-step instructions, so to speak.  Most even have process improvement experts on staff.  Not every hospital, however, has success.

These nursing leaders made an observation.  The different outcomes are due, at least in part, to the people on that team.  When the people on these teams are good collaborators (and innovation plays a role, too), they make progress rather quickly.  When they aren’t, they don’t.  It’s that simple.  Nearly every nurse has the knowledge required to reduce length of stay and hospital re-admissions.  Everyone has access to the processes and technology.  Not everyone has the right people!  

This was a bit of a light bulb moment for these nursing leaders.  They knew this, intuitively, but had never looked at it objectively, with the help of people whose area of expertise is selecting candidates with desired attributes.   So, they asked, how do we identify people who are good collaborators?  Specifically, how do we identify nurses with this skill?  It’s actually not that complicated.  We apply proven tools that have been used in other industries for decades.  We combine our assessment of a nurse’s technical skills with an assessment, via online testing and a structured, behavioral interview process, that gets at, among other things, her potential to work collaboratively.

There’s plenty of research demonstrating that collaborative care models work.  There’s plenty of evidence that we can identify the potential in individuals to work collaboratively.  Looks like it’s time to combine the science of selection with the science of better care models.  Then we will make a real, consistent, dent in quantifiable quality metrics like length of stay and re-admission rates.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.