HealthcareSource recently published an article in ASHHRA’s HR Pulse magazine on the current state of healthcare HR. We also reviewed the responses from the ASHHRA and HealthcareSource HR Initiatives Survey conducted last summer. What caught my attention was an article cited in the article – the AHA research paper Using Workforce Practices to Drive Patient Safety. The article suggests that “practices that ensure all employees’ awareness, understanding, and personal stake in the organization’s vision, including its current level of success in pursuing that vision” will obtain a higher rate of patient safety. Employee accountability and patient safety go hand in hand.

Participants in the 2011 HR Initiatives Survey specifically cited the need to involve employees in key decisions, and track and reward performance. A majority of our 234 survey respondents stated they were involved with the #2 and #3 top patient safety initiatives: “Improving Employee Satisfaction” and “Identifying and Managing out Low Performers.” Improving communications throughout the organization was seen as a key component for success with these initiatives.

Three of our survey respondents described their communications programs:

Connie Knox, Talent Acquisition Management Recruiter at Coliseum Health System, created a “Fresh Feedback” luncheon for all new hires within their first 45 days of employment. The purpose is to create a dialogue between new employees and the organization by giving them an open forum to relay feedback and ask questions. Tracy Brown, Director of HR at Lakeland Healthcare, is leading the initiative to have HR focus on being a strategic business partner to drive a culture of high performance. As such, in lieu of performance evaluations, they had “high performance conversations.” Lakeland is also rewarding the high performers and moving the low performers out of the organization. Another interesting initiative a respondent shared with us comes from Affinity Health.  According to Recruiting Specialist Kari Peters, Affinity just launched a ‘New Hire Hub’ that provides new employees with all the on boarding information they need through a portal from their external website.

Survey respondents gave high ratings to performance management software, which automates the employee appraisal, goals, and feedback process. Automating performance management creates a more-structured and disciplined process for performance reviews, time and attendance, scheduling, and absenteeism. It helps HR professionals identifies issues and supports employee accountability. Also, ensuring employee accountability begins with hiring the right people.

healthcare HR can improve patient safety

Behavioral assessments help identify candidates who “fit” an organization’s culture and have the behavioral competencies the employer seeks (both are difficult to assess from an interview alone). We outlined some best practices for using behavioral interviewing in our new white paper on improving your interview process. Here are some key takeaways:

To avoid asking “yes or no” questions and questions that lead candidates to give you the answers you want to hear, we recommend using the SAO method to obtain answers that demonstrate behaviors. The interviewer should take notes and listen for 3 components within the answer to the question:

Situation (S):

The situation or task facing the applicant

Action (A):

The actions the applicant took

Outcome (O):

The results or changes caused by those actions

The interview process should always be centered on hiring candidates who are an excellent fit for your organization – using a structured interview guide helps facilitate this. “Incorporate questions into your interview guides that focus on delivering patient satisfaction and service excellence because there’s a direct correlation between the care we provide and patient outcomes,” said Miranda Maynard, Employment Supervisor at EMH Healthcare. She recommends recruiters “use a behavioral-based, pre-employment assessment solution like Staff Assessment to help ensure they’re ultimately going to hire the right people.” Will hiring highly-skilled people who fit well into your organization’s culture drive patient safety? Will focusing on top performers and effective performance management drive quality care? Absolutely. As our article in HR Pulse stated, “It’s intuitive that patient safety is affected directly by competency of the workforce and the influence of an organization’s culture.” I couldn’t agree more.



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.