I recently attended a workshop held by the American College of Healthcare Executives on the “Journey to Excellence: How High-Performing Healthcare Leaders Achieve Organizational Success.” It was interesting to sit with healthcare leaders and hear about their challenges around driving greater organizational performance in the complicated and challenging world of healthcare. One thing was very clear: without the right leaders in place to drive performance improvement initiatives (such as improving HCAHPS scores), it becomes even more challenging, and perhaps impossible, to create positive change. Here’s an interview with our Scientific Advisor, Dr. Frederick Morgeson, Michigan State University, who recently hosted a webinar on increasing HCAHPS scores, on how talent management best practices can help organizations identify and develop leaders who will drive performance improvement. 


1. How can organizations identify potential leaders who are likely to positively impact HCAHPS scores?

To really get a handle on a question like that, first you have to understand what HCAHPS is. When you look at HCAHPS and high-impact measures such as communication with nurses and pain management, organization leaders have a direct effect on the patient experience. Leaders manage the people who are the direct caregivers, and those responsible for patient satisfaction initiatives. 

Leaders are the ones who make all the key decisions that dictate who is hired, how work is performed, and how you’re going to reward people. So those are all the aspects that they can address to create a staff that is able to deliver a high-quality patient experience.

The other thing that leaders do in terms of HCAHPS improvement is they set the standards that everyone else will follow. They create the climates and cultures that are going to have an impact on employee behavior. One of the big challenges in organizations is, you have all these employees working for you, and you can try and tell people, “Well, here’s what you should do,” but many times situations occur where there is no clear guidance about how to act or what to do. Leaders are key in establishing and communicating those cultural aspects.

For example, if you have a culture of patient-centered care, those aspects of the culture should guide employee behavior in the absence of direct information about what one should be doing.

2. What are some of the key behavioral competencies that people should be looking for when they’re trying to assess potential leaders?

When trying to assess potential leaders, one would look for someone who is adaptive, skilled and knowledgeable, with a high level of cognitive ability. They typically have really good problem solving skills. You’re looking for people that can be strategic; so having strong strategic skills can be helpful. Leaders need to have good interpersonal skills, and – especially in health care – have a strong customer orientation and good communication skills.

3. What is the connection between leadership and HCAHPS scores?

You want to have leaders who can create a culture that is supportive of a patient-centric experience in a hospital. You want to make sure that you have people that can establish a positive culture and a positive environment. You want to make sure you have leaders who are visionary in the sense of seeing what’s coming to adjust and be successful as the environment changes.

Environments are dynamic, and no place is that more true than in healthcare. This includes changes in the healthcare insurance laws, the Affordable Care Act, and the connection of HCAHPS scores to reimbursements. All of these things are new and require adaptation to this new reality. Organizations need to have leaders that could see that and then be able to adjust to those changes in order to deal with the new reality that you’re operating in.

4. How do you think behavioral assessments will help identify leaders who could potentially contribute to HCAHPS scores?

The most important thing you can do in an organization is to have the right people in place. A common saying is, “Have the right people on the bus.” And so, behavioral assessments really help you get those right people on the bus. If you’re interested in driving HCAHPS scores – what goes into those HCAHPS scores? What elements of the patient experience are important? How can you bring in employees that will help you meet your goals in a way that will help generate a positive patient experience?

So behavioral assessments, staffing, and hiring processes are all ways in which you can get those right people in your organization. And then once you have the right people in the organization, you must ensure that they possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities might need. Once you have the right people in place, your goals become easier to achieve. However, you must assess that talent before you bring them into your organization.

To learn more about how talent management best practices can drive HCAHPS improvement, watch the webinar replay Identifying Leaders to Impact the Patient Experience



About The Editorial Staff

The Editorial Staff is a team of writers with a passion for helping healthcare organizations manage their biggest and most important investment: their employees.