healthcarereformAccording to the results of this year’s HealthcareSource HR Initiatives Suvey, preparing for healthcare reform is top of mind for many healthcare HR professionals and executives. s the upcoming health insurance mandate expands health insurance coverage to all Americans, healthcare organizations will likely have to train their staff to work more efficiently and expand their skills to care for the influx of patients. Due to healthcare reform‘s impact on an organization’s budget, including reimbursement cuts based on low patient satisfaction scores, healthcare organizations must strive to provide quality patient care with limited resources. In order to provide high-quality patient care, healthcare HR professionals should consider educating their staff and re-examining the role performance management plays when it comes to meeting patient needs. Here are three things that healthcare HR professionals can do to prepare their staff for healthcare reform:  

1. Cultivate an atmosphere that values patient satisfaction

The high response to healthcare reform on the HR Initiatives Survey is likely related, in part, to the upcoming health insurance mandate that expands health insurance coverage to all Americans, which means that hospitals will have to provide adequate staffing ratios to care for an increase in patients. However, organizations are also focusing on healthcare reform initiatives, such as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, that impacts reimbursements. HCAHPS initiatives related to talent management are usually focused on employee performance — for example, nurse communication has a huge impact on survey scores; therefore, nurses must be trained on how to effectively communicate with patients. 

But it’s not just nursing that needs to focus on improving patient satisfaction. According to Custom Learning Systems, one effective approach is to create a service-excellence council comprised of frontline employees that focuses on improving HCAHPS scores. This group should work to establish goals related to patient satisfaction and monitor scores by department over time. Hospitals, such as North Westchester Hospital in New York, often try to increase transparency by creating an HCAHPS scorecard that is available for all employees to review.

By establishing a service-excellence council, healthcare organizations are acknowledging the importance of providing exceptional service and reinforcing their dedication to high patient satisfaction. Since the committee is comprised of employees with common goals, this will also develop employees to become leaders and advocates to reinforce their personal and professional values to their colleagues. 

2. Set and track employee performance goals 

As healthcare organizations strive to improve their patient satisfaction scores, setting goals establishes benchmarks for success. Individual employees need clearly defined goals that apply to their day-to-day tasks in order to drive patient satisfaction. When setting individual employee goals, managers should ensure that the goals align with organization-wide goals around patient satisfaction to reinforce how the employee’s work supports the organization’s vision for success.

It’s also important to keep in mind that employee goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to ensure that managers and leaders can properly evaluate employee success. When healthcare organizations utilize a performance management system, managers can ensure that employee goals and performance are measured consistently. Another benefit of using a performance management system is that it facilitates a more consistent dialogue between managers and employees through reminder features that document goal progress. By setting online tasks and reminders, managers can clearly define the organization’s goals for their employees and give them more timely direction and prioritization of their tasks that relate to those goals.

3. Recognize success when employees reach their objectives

Recognition for a job well done keeps employees motivated and driven to succeed because they feel appreciated. Employee motivation is critical for delivering consistent, quality patient care and service. Without the proper motivation from management, it’s easy for employees to feel unappreciated and burnt-out — especially in healthcare when employees work long shifts and are constantly serving patients. Also, this type of performance management process encourages coaching employees, rather than focusing on negative feedback, which should increase employee satisfaction.

Healthcare reform is adding incentives to provide quality care. Some incentives may be costly so organizations need to reduce expenses, while ensuring they are delivering high quality care. According to Stephanie Drake, MBA, Executive Director of Professional Services at the American Hospital Association, “Many organizations are looking at team-based care. They’re reducing costs to ensure that they have the flexibility to adapt to anything that may be introduced through healthcare reform.” By developing your staff through performance management initiatives, they’ll be be more likely to provide high quality care during the age of healthcare reform. 

Are you interested in learning what else is top of mind for healthcare HR professionals? Download the 2013 HealthcareSource and ASHHRA Healthcare HR Initiatives Survey Results and Insights white paper to learn what other initiatives healthcare HR professionals are focusing on.

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.