Quint Studer: One Simple, Powerful Way to Improve Communication at Your Hospital

If your hospital suffers from communication problems, one simple change may have the power to significantly improve this area of performance, says Quint Studer, founder and CEO of the Studer Group. He encourages hospital executives to perform the following exercise with senior managers to illustrate one possible source of communication trouble and offers a straightforward solution to correct the error.  

Step 1: Gather together senior managers. Hospital leaders should begin by calling a meeting of senior managers and get them together in one room. The meeting can take place at a regularly scheduled senior leadership meeting or can take place at a specially selected date and time; leaders should allow around 30 minutes for the exercise.

Step 2: Write down the normal time when the senior leader meeting is held. This usually will occur at the same time each week. Write the time on a whiteboard or flip chart.

Step 3: Ask each manager to share how many employees report to them and when they meet with them. Write all responses down on the whiteboard or flip chart. As managers begin sharing, they may start to notice that most meetings take place at a specified date and time but are not uniformly scheduled across departments. "One group of 11 direct reports may meet weekly each Tuesday at 2 p.m., while another group of six may meet every other Friday at 1p.m.," says Mr. Studer.

"As you go around the room, light bulbs begin to go off," he says. If senior leadership meets on Monday afternoon, the group that meets on Tuesdays is going to be much better informed than the group meeting the following Friday — this second group is left largely in the dark, causing uncertainty. "I don't think it's that communication is necessarily bad," says Mr. Studer. "It's the sequence of communication that is bad."

Step 4: Coordinate top-down communication. After leaders begin to realize that releasing directives and other information at different times across the organization can cause problems, executives should guide the group into finding a way to better coordinate the distribution of top-down communication.

Mr. Studer recommends leaders agree to a set meeting time for all departments. For example, if leadership meets Mondays at 3 p.m., all departments could agree to meet the following Tuesday at 10 a.m. This ensures communication is distributed evenly and also helps make the hospital more efficient overall. That is, if nearly all employees are in meetings at the same time, it makes it easier to coordinate meetings with workers in different departments as there will be fewer standing obligations to work around, says Mr. Studer.

Step 5: Hardwire the new communication process. Finally, a standing agenda item that calls for leaders to determine which, if any, messages need to be passed down to front-live supervisors and staff should be addressed at each senior leadership meeting. How exactly to communicate the message and when to communicate it should also be agreed upon so that messaging is consistent throughout the organization. 

Related Articles Featuring Quint Studer:
Quint Studer: Raising HCAHPS Is About More Than Better Service…It's About Better Quality
Quint Studer: 3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Hospital's Performance

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