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That Brand New Hospital Doesn’t Guarantee a Patient-Centered Culture

November 9, 2016

hospital.jpgOne of our newer health system clients just told us that their newest hospital is struggling with staff turnover, employee engagement, and patient satisfaction scores. We weren’t on the project until this hospital had already been open for two years.

They described a situation where staff from other system hospitals were given first crack at positions in the new hospital. They didn’t do anything different about how they vetted candidates to staff the new hospital. They’ve ended up with a beautiful new building but a very traditional, non-patient-centric culture. It’s a common error.

This is a shame because over the past few years, we’ve worked on two large hospital start-up projects. In each case, we worked with the leadership team to define the culture, the behavioral skills, and competencies that would support it. Then we built a very deliberate hiring system targeting these behaviors. We implemented healthcare-specific pre-employment assessments configured to target these behaviors. That data was integrated with a thorough interviewing program.

Perhaps more importantly, we applied these same hiring criteria to transfers from other hospitals in the system. We gave credit to internal transfers for their experience and took into consideration past performance data, but they were still screened for the behavioral competencies. In each case, the new leadership team was adamant that they wanted to build a NEW culture and only wanted people who would contribute. They definitely did NOT want anyone who had the “well, this is how we’ve always done it” attitude.

Would you be surprised to learn that each of these new hospitals, a few years after opening, have the highest employee engagement and patient satisfaction scores in their respective systems? If you appreciate the role of talent in building your culture, probably not.

A new facility presents some unique challenges but is a great opportunity to build a culture from the ground up. It’s a bit harder to change culture when it’s established and ingrained, but it can be done. Here’s a short paper describing how one hospital took a long-term, deliberate approach to changing their culture.

How Culture Drive Hospital Outcomes

The key is that they didn’t change just for change’s sake, but because they realized that a new culture would support everything they were trying to accomplish, not the least of which was creating a truly patient- and family-centric culture. That doesn’t happen because you implement a few new processes or training programs, but by daily decisions – including selection and hiring decisions that either support your culture or drag it down.

How Culture Drives or Hinders Hospital Outcomes

Laurie Wasko, Ph.D. Laurie Wasko, Ph.D. was the Director of Consulting Services at PSI.