Building a Culture That Works: 5 Traits of High-Performing Healthcare Organizations

"It's not a matter of knowing what to do…it is the execution of how." According to Quint Studer, founder of Studer Group, the biggest hindrance to creating a high-performing healthcare organization is not a lack of best practices. Rather, it's the failure to effectively execute these best practices.
How do organizations ensure they execute best practices? By developing a culture of accountability.

A culture of accountability holds leaders through front-line workers accountable for meeting certain performance benchmarks. And they achieve those benchmarks by relentlessly adhering to best practices and processes that have demonstrated improved performance.

Mr. Studer discussed the importance of accountability and other key characteristics of high-performing healthcare organizations at the Studer Group Executive Summit, which took place Sept. 5th in Chicago.

Specifically, he shared five commonalities among high-performing healthcare organizations. These "influential factors" were uncovered by a 2004 study by the Alliance for Health Care Research, funded by Studer Group.

1. Executive and senior leadership commitment. In the high-performing organization, "CEOs were just relentless on achieving desired outcomes," explained Mr. Studer.

2. Leadership evaluation and accountability. "Their evaluation system for their leadership was much more objective and much more weighted," which created a much greater sense of accountability in the organization, he said. The evaluation systems also ensured consistency among leadership in adhering to best practices, as a lack of consistency, even by a single senior leader, devastates efforts to improve.

3. Leadership institutes and training. The highest performing organizations invest in training and developing leaders, rather than simply promoting "homegrown" leaders to a role that requires completely different skillsets. Healthcare organizations are sometimes cautious about spending significant funds on training, but Mr. Studer says failure to do so is a major reason organizations fail to execute.

4. Communication and employee forums. High-performing organizations have a "commitment to employee communication," says Mr. Studer. They "explain the why of doing things and really touching front lines." In fact, argues Mr. Studer, the why should be introduced before the what and how when leaders communicate with employees.

5. Know this was the right thing to do. High-performing organizations execute change “even if it might not have made sense financially" if it's the right thing to do. Often, highlighting what is the "right thing to do" is what needs to be communicated to employees to engage them in a behavior change.

"No nurse is motivated to raise HCAHPs scores," explained Mr. Studer. This is the case even if you tell them that failure to raise scores will hurt hospital reimbursement. Instead, leaders should communicate the importance of better managing pain, for example. "That captures the heart," said Mr. Studer. "If I can connect it to the clinical outcome, or if I can connect it with the mission of the organization, the better compliance I'll get."

The highest performing organizations also never stop striving for improvement. According to Mr. Studer, the highest performers "don't declare victory." Mr. Studer cited a 1991 Harvard Business Review article by John Kotter that argued that the biggest reason for failed cultural transformation is because the organization had some success and "declared victory." After this, efforts to improve stop and "success begins eroding."

More Articles Featuring Quint Studer:

10 Signs of Troubled Physician Alignment
The Hospital CEO's Ultimate Dashboard: What to Check Daily, Quarterly and Yearly

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