When is achieving all your goals not good enough?

We’ve closed the books on another year, and it’s time to review your performance. Maybe you’ve completed all your goals -- congratulations you’ve failed. Failed? How could that be, I’ve completed all my goals? And therein lies the problem, you didn’t set your goals (or the bar) high enough for your own performance. Goals by definition are aspirations and should be set high enough to stretch the organization and yourself in new directions. If you are constantly beating your goals, you’re not stretching enough.

But why don’t we set our goals high enough? Well, it’s complicated. It has a lot to do with you, and with equal parts of your companies’ culture and goal setting process.

Take this simple test: Read Full Article

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Patient Care Experience Beyond the Medicine

INTEGRATING SUPPORT SERVICES AND FAMILIES FOR PSYCHOSOCIAL CARE.

He is that family member we all know, regrettably often looked upon as bothersome, annoying or cantankerous. Throughout my career in home health, skilled nursing and acute care, these family members are at every level – anywhere that involves caring for vulnerable patients.

One doesn’t even have to be in patient care – simply working in healthcare means each of us will likely deal with these troublesome family members at one time or another.

I was still a teenager when I first encountered “the husband” as we came to know him. Little did I know that those few days with him would have an impact upon my entire future, and that of my very role as a healthcare leader.

Interacting with patients’ families while working both in dietary as a dishwasher/server and facilities as housekeeping/maintenance taught me the importance of both support services and family members within the patient care experience – beyond the medicine. Read Full Article

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A visionary leader is proactive

Reactive vs Proactive Leadership

I do a lot of reading on leadership. About 2 years ago, I read a book in which the author briefly contrasted reactive and proactive leaders. The author said that reactive leader does not seem to anticipate problems and does not see them coming until they are blowing up in his face. The reactive leader is constantly putting out fires. The proactive leader on the other hand sees problems just as they are starting to grow, or even before they begin, and calmly takes quiet and gentle steps to correct and avert so that the conflicts and disruptions are minimized or even completely prevented.

A reactive leader may be confronted with ugly contentions for any combination of the following reasons:

  1. Does not see the problem or consider that it might develop.
  2. Sees the potential problem, but does not want to be bothered over something that “might” happen.
  3. Sees the problem, but is afraid to act.
  4. Created the problem by misguided attempts to solve other problems.
  5. Enjoys contention and creates problems in part to create sparring opportunities or opportunities to assert dominance that are ego driven rather than leadership required.

The proactive leader does as Walter Gretzsky did and skates “to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” He has an eye to future disruptions. He sees the problems and is ready, willing and unafraid to act. He does not shy away from healthy conflict resolution, but prevents or minimizes unhealthy contention within his organization. He may disrupt his organization to move it where it needs to be to survive and thrive, but he will not allow his organization to be disrupted to no purpose.

I recently read an online article that presented reactive and proactive leaders as two equally valid leadership styles.i The reactive leader is presented in this article as strong in the surprise conflict, but weak in anticipatory leadership and the proactive leader as strong in long-range planning, but weak when called upon to “shoot from the hip.” I could not disagree more. A reactive leader is responding to whatever hits him and cannot have a firm hand on the tiller of the organization. For the proactive leader, the ability to extrapolate likely future scenarios and to predict human nature and act with vision and foresight does not make one unable to act upon the present urgencies and emergencies. Indeed, a proactive leader who has an eye to the future will be able to craft acute conflict resolution that is long lasting and strengthening to the organization.

Now, here is the part that stuns me, yet I have seen time and time to be true. This unknown author says that the reactive leader is often seen as the stronger leader, because he is often seen with guns blazing at a terrible dragon he is slaying for the organization, even if he is the one who fed and nurtured that dragon. The proactive leader is too often seen as weak or irrelevant. Why is he even needed? The organization seems to run itself. He often addresses problems discretely allowing key stakeholders to save face in front of the rest of the organization while bringing them effectively back on track. So much of what he does is unseen so it is assumed that it is not happening.

iPROACTIVE OR REACTIVE LEADERSHIP, WHICH IS MOST EFFECTIVE IN THE WORKPLACE? VICKY BAILEY, 2016-12-02

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The Fourth Discipline: Transition Management

Leadership Transformation Series

This is Part 1 of a Four-Part Leadership Transformation Series (LTS).

2012 Womens Olympic Triathlon finish in London - After two hours of racing with the best in the world, what would one or two seconds in transition time have meant for the top three athletes?

Transformation in healthcare is personal: it requires the transformation of health system leaders. This LTS begins to speak to key differences in some of the fundamentals of transformational vs traditional leadership in healthcare.

This article focuses on how the nature of our work is changing.

Many compare the healthcare transformation journey to one of our oldest Olympic sports: “It’s a marathon!” Although this might reflect the persistence, resilience and endurance sentiment, I offer an analogy upgrade from one of our newest Olympic sports: “It’s a triathlon!”

Why?

First, transformation requires mastery of multiple disciplines. We – and our organizations - may have competency in one or two disciplines, but adaptive learning is required to develop and integrate the different and stronger skills needed for next level or breakthrough performance. We cannot count on simply doing more of the same ‘one foot in front of the other’ plodding and grinding to advance our mission – our people are burning out. Unlike in the run or bike, the first triathlon discipline – the swim - does not ask as much of the legs. While the upper body provides most of the forward propulsion, for swim speed it is more important to reduce drag. Drag is not a material factor in running, but it is in running our organizations – and barnacles, barriers and anchors come in many, mostly self-inflicted, forms.( Read Full Article)

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Want to build your culture -- start by sweeping the floor!

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories, inspirational stories on leadership, one of my favorites involves President John F. Kennedy and his first visit to NASA in 1962. As the story goes, the President was touring the facility when he came across a janitor carrying a broom down the same hallway as the touring President. Kennedy, a great lover of people stopped him and asked him what he did for NASA, not missing a beat he replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”.

As I reflect on this, I’m struck by the absolute simplicity of this statement, but also the way it speaks volumes. This individual clearly understood that he was an integral part of the team, no matter what the role. If he did his job well, he contributed to the overall success of the team, engineer, scientist, astronauts etc. His job, although different in almost every way imaginable from his colleagues, still contributed to achieving the overall goal, that of putting a man on the moon. Read Full Article

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Focus on Culture for Patient and Family Care: Beyond the Medicine

As healthcare (including acute care, nursing homes, home health and all downstream providers) moves towards a greater focus on patient/family satisfaction, the model of healthcare must also evolve, for both the government and patients/families will be closely reviewing these in determining healthcare provider(s) of choice. A satisfied patient is a more compliant patient, making for a more engaged patient. Providers at every level must now move beyond the patient centered approach, into an understanding of the patient/family perspective and be willing and able to convert input to action and measurable goals, benefiting staff, patients and families. Read Full Article

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Miracle-Gro® or Roundup® - Which One Are You Using on Your Network?

Why is it that some people thrive and others survive in business? Much of it comes back to their network. A network is like a garden. You have to water it on a consistent basis for it to grow. However, most of us put our heads down and focus on daily tasks. We say that we are too busy to network. We end up neglecting our networking garden and focus mainly on what others can do for us. Unfortunately, this self-referenced behavior is the equivalent of spraying Roundup® on your lush networking garden that you worked so hard to create. So what’s the cure?

Reciprocation is the Miracle-Gro® of networking. Without it, your network will shrivel up and look like you won a pallet of Roundup®. Here are three ways to rethink how you network, which can start to produce some Miracle-Gro®:

  1. When you talk to an executive recruiter next time, see what you can do to help them find a new client (not only a referral to a candidate). Go out of your way to introduce them to someone you know that might take their call. This can do wonders for your relationship with the recruiter.
  2. Instead of thinking of suppliers or vendors as another salesperson, invest time in getting to know them personally and see if you can introduce them to someone that might make a difference in their business. Remember that vendors may visit hundreds of organizations each year and their network could be very large.
  3. Focus on informational networking rather than looking at how you can find a new position. Invest in the relationship, find out about their journey and see what you can do to add value to the conversation. You might decide to follow up with writing an article that is relevant to the other person.

By investing in relationships over the long-term, thinking of others first and finding ways to reciprocate, you will develop a beautiful networking garden for many years to come.

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Take your team to first place -- by putting yourself last

Many high performing companies have discovered the value of servant leadership, which simply defined is serving others first. When leaders make this simple, but fundamental mind shift, the culture and the organization will follow as will bottom line results. Employees working under leaders who put their needs first, build self-confidence, make decisions more autonomously, have greater job satisfaction and engagement, and are more likely to practice this same style with their direct reports.

How does servant leadership build organizational and team performance? Read Full Article

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Healthcare Integration: Ship-to-Shore Work and the Ultimate Weapon

Veterans Day reminds me of my father. In WWII, he landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

As Steven Ambrose details in his book “D-Day,” the Allies planned the Normandy invasion for three years, but as soon as our troops hit the beaches, the plans went out the window. To the ‘man on the ground,’ NOTHING was as planned. And on the beaches, formal leaders were dead or not available. Survival and progress to save the free world depended on rapid learning and action, i.e., adaptive leadership. Our troops felt empowered to act, German forces felt compelled to wait for Hitler’s direction. The rest of this leadership story, as they say, is history.

Despite asserting to my Dad, in my youth, the growing impact of technology, e.g., pilotless planes, long-range capabilities, etc., he remained convicted of the mantra “the ultimate weapon is the man on the ground.”* My Dad and his colleagues, some of whom made it past D-Day, are heroes. I have since learned that there were others “on the ground” back in the U.S. who heroically enabled these heroes. During the planning for the largest invasion in modern history, a significant challenge was figuring out how to get our troops from ‘ship-to-shore.’ The U.S. federal government knew how make large ships to get our troops across the English Channel, but they could not get our troops to the shore. Enter Andrew Jackson Higgins, who was described by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1964 as “the man who won the war for us.” (Read Full Article)

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Changing Landscape and Designation Within Rural Healthcare

The landscape within rural communities was very different in 1977 than it was 20 years later when Congress created the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The intent was to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. In the 20+ years since, healthcare and the settings in which it is provided (and subsequent regulations) has continued to evolve.

Recently, there was H.R. 2957, Save Rural Hospitals Act. Creating a Community Outpatient Hospital (COH) designation. The focus would maintain the vital economic contribution the health system makes to the community, expand funding opportunities, along with telehealth and transportation for accessibility and improved quality of care. Read Full Article

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Is it 'Mission Impossible' for healthcare? Why mission-driven leadership is still the answer.

Healthcare has been in a tremendous period of change, mergers, acquisitions, leadership restructures, and new and improved strategic plans and priorities fill the time of most leaders. During this time of change, many leaders may wonder privately, does the mission of this organization still matter? Or is it only about the bottom line?.

When looking at high performing companies outside of healthcare, they all share some things in common, first, they have a clear and well spelled out purpose/mission. This is important so everyone, front line staff to executives can understand the why we are here, and how we will define success. This is not just a feel-good statement, and properly developed and executed this has the potential to pull people forward, especially during uncertain or difficult times. Read Full Article

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Does your new hire have the right stuff? How their personality has a long-term impact on your organization’s bottom line.

In healthcare, how often have you heard this, he/she is a great clinician, but has no personality. Or, take me to hospital A, but if I’m really sick take me to hospital B, this assumes hospital A is the “Nice” hospital but Hospital B is where all the best clinicians work. So, the obvious question is, can’t you have both? Yes, if you select the right people.

In Jim Collins book, “From Good to Great”, he writes, “People are your most important asset,” or rather the right people are. In today’s healthcare market many organizations are making the move from Volume to Value, with Quality being a primary focus, but how do our patients define quality? Sure, having the best possible outcome is right up there, with no medical mistakes or errors please. However, most patients come to our organizations assuming great quality, and value the interaction with their caregivers as high if not higher than any other part of the patient/caregiver interaction. Read Full Article

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Are you holding your team back? Why task-oriented leaders should build their relationship skills to accomplish goals

Task oriented leaders, those using just workplans, measurements, goals, dashboards, etc.… sometimes may be left scratching their heads when their teams do not accomplish their goals, or performance begins to decline without any clear reason as to why.

To motivate your teams, and accomplish your goals, perhaps you would be better served to examine your leadership relationship competencies.

WHAT IS RELATIONSHIP LEADING?

WHAT IS TASK-ORIENTED LEADING?

When determining what leadership style works best for your team, consider the make-up of the team, today’s workforce is motivated much more by team achievement but still values individual recognition. Workers today want to achieve the goal, but want much more flexibility than past generations when it comes to how to achieve that goal. Read Full Article

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New Year’s Resolution: Become A Better Leader!

In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget that in just a few weeks most of us will be looking at the New Year and a list of resolutions or promises that we have made to ourselves that we hope to accomplish. Some of our old favorites are bound to make the list, lose some weight, exercise, give more to charity, get back in touch with family or old friends.

But what about including in this year’s list the commitment to be a better leader next year?

Research tells us that when we write our goals down, we are far more likely to achieve them, so begin the year by taking a good hard look at what is means to be a leader, remember, you may have the title but being the leader of people requires these fundamental building blocks, can you complete these? Read Full Article

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Congrats you got the job! Read before you sign.

A physician who I greatly admire and respect once took a job as a hospitalist in a small town. She was told that she would have a guaranteed salary. But she did not read the fine print in her employment contract. The guarantee was actually an advance against future production, or collections. She was required to meet a certain level of collections to support her salary. If she did not meet that level of collections, she had to pay back the deficit. There was a hospitalist outside of and competing with her group. One of the emergency department physicians really liked this hospitalist. If he determined that the patient had good insurance, he called the outside hospitalist to do the admission. If he determined that the patient did not have good insurance, he called my friend’s hospitalist group. They were providing a tremendous amount of care to the patients in the hospital. They were just not getting paid. The longer she worked there, the deeper in debt she was getting. One of her partners did the math and simply left. My friend stayed out of a sense of integrity and fairness to give them time to find her replacement. She was not repaid in kind. And who was going to come and take over for such a terrible deal? She ended up in court and had to pay everything that the hospital was demanding of her. The judge said that it was a terrible contract, but a legally binding one and that she was a big girl and should have read the contract. Her partner who left early made the right decision in that she paid much less to the hospital.

When I was in medical school, we had a medical legal course which consisted of about 10 hours of lectures. One of the things that we were told was to read very carefully anything that we put our signature to. We were particularly cautioned to read employment contracts. I have followed this advice, and it has served me very well. I know of some stories where physicians were badly injured for not having read their employment contracts.

The first question is, “Will I be paid as an employee or as a contractor?” If an employee, then the employer pays half of the Social Security and Medicare taxes. If a contractor, then you pay all of the Social Security and Medicare taxes. If paid a salary, you will get a set amount of money, usually every two weeks or every month. Most people who are paid a salary are expected to work significantly more than 40 hours per week, because there is no additional cost to the employer for extra hours that you work. Many job offers will sound like salaried positions, but close examination of the contract will reveal that all or a significant portion of the payment offered is contingent upon one or more performance metrics. These metrics may include collections, relative value units (RVU’s), quality & efficiency. These may be based on individual performance, group performance or some combination of both. Collections is how much was actually paid for the care you delivered. Usually, a percentage of your collections is paid to the group or hospital for overhead. RVU payment is based not on collections, but on billing. This system is often used by organizations that serve the underserved as it encourages physicians to deliver care regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Increasingly large portions of physicians’ compensation packages are only paid if the individual and/or group meet certain quality and efficiency metrics. Whether you are actually in control of a metric, the manner in which the metric is tracked & calculated and the thresholds to qualify for the metric all can have significant impact on your actual compensation. Benefit packages can also have significant impact.

In such a short article, I cannot tell you everything to look for. I would advise you to look closely at the exit clauses. When you go to work for a new employer, you have great hopes and even expectations that things are going to go very well. But they may not. I heard of a physician who, within two months of joining a new group, learned that his partners were engaged in and engaging him in activity of questionable legality. The exit clauses in his contract were onerous, and it was very costly for him to leave so early. Issues that may hit you with early separation can include repayment of sign-on bonuses, repayment of moving stipends and noncompete clauses. I was once invited to sign a contract that said I could not work for two years in any hospital anywhere in the United States owned by any company or organization that had a contract with this large physician staffing company (which had hospital contracts in many states).

So how do you go about reading an employment contract? Of course, you are not going to receive a copy of the contract until after you have been given an offer of employment. The contract is usually sent as a PDF. You can either print it out and use a highlighter and an ink pen or, if you can get it into an editable format on your computer, you can go through the document using track changes. You are now going to sit down and read every single word of the document: slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. You will go online and look up the definitions of any legal terms that you do not understand. You can write those definitions in the margins. You can make notes about things that you understand and want addressed and about things that you do not understand. After fully digesting the document, you will either decide to walk away from this job or you will think that this might be doable if the potential employer is agreeable to reasonable changes.

If you wish to go forward, you will now hire an experienced physician employment attorney and will send him or her a copy of your highlighted document with all its notations. You will discuss your concerns. Your attorney will review your document and schedule a follow-up discussion. Your attorney may advise you simply to walk away. Or he may give you a list of items that need clarification or correction. Some issues you identify and some of your attorney’s recommendations will be deal breakers meaning either these changes are made, or you refuse the offer of employment. Others may be that it would be nice if you could get them, but are not that important. With the help of your attorney and your spouse or significant other, if there is one, you will formulate a plan for seeking necessary and desired changes in your employment contract that are reasonable and fair to both parties. Your attorney will help you express your concerns in a language that resonates with the attorney working for your potential employer who will have to give the final approval on any changes to the employment contract.

I will walk you through how I approach these negotiations. I schedule a phone meeting with the individual designated by the potential employer to be their face for the negotiations. My tone is very pleasant and reasonable. I start by saying that my wife and I have carefully read the contract. I have sought the advice of a very competent attorney experienced in physician employment contracts. From these discussions, the following concerns have arisen. If the concern is coming from me, I do not hesitate to say so, but I consider it a good strategy to point out when the concern is coming from my wife or from the advice of my attorney. This is called an appeal to higher authority. It may seem like weakness, but it is a very powerful tool. Used properly, it can tremendously strengthen your position as nothing they say to persuade me will have any impact on how my wife feels about it, especially when it is an issue that is recognized as a reasonable concern for the employee’s wife. When appropriate, I ask for clarification of language in the contract rather than outright changes. Everything that I am asking for needs to be laid out in this first meeting. If you keep coming back with new demands, they may tire very quickly and look for another candidate.

You likely will not get everything you ask for. Just make sure that you get everything you need.

You likely will not get everything you ask for. Just make sure that you get everything you need.

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Flexing your anger muscles at work

Early in my career my father shared with me the following advice: “Leave your emotions at home. Do not take your emotions to work.” He was not talking about positive emotions. He was talking about the negative emotions that get so many of us in trouble at work. Chiefly he was talking about anger.

Many people believe that anger is like a boiling, caustic liquid inside of them that can be purged by expressing the anger. They think that they can blow up and “get it out of their system.” But that is not how anger works at all. Anger is like a muscle. The more we express our anger, the stronger it becomes.

Solomon is revered as an extremely wise king. Here is what he had to say about anger. “The discretion of a man defereth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” * “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” ** “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” ***

Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” The regret can be for the harm we have done to others and the harm we have done to ourselves. Anger can do great harm to very important relationships. Sometimes we are able to completely restore the relationship. Sometimes we can only patch it. Sometimes we are left with an irreparable breach. Regardless, our efforts at mitigation may require the expenditure of great effort and political capital.

Our anger can decrease our allies and increase our workplace foes. Whether at work or not, we can never have too many friends and even one enemy is a luxury that we can ill afford. In a large and complex work environment, we may find that we cannot always give everyone everything they want. People may choose to be our enemy in spite of our best efforts. It would be foolish indeed to recruit additional enemies with unbridled, unregulated anger.

On the subject of enemies, I will say that over the years I have had a few people who have chosen to be my enemy. I have never accepted their invitation to join the conflict. When I speak of enemies, I speak of those who bear me ill will, but I am determined to be a friend to all, even those who are my most implacable enemies. I may distance myself from them and take steps to prevent them from injuring me further, but I will not move to injure them out of spite or revenge. It has been said that the best way to destroy an enemy is to turn him into a friend.

Often our anger prompts us to tell people what we think. We would be most foolish to reveal our innermost thoughts to people who are truly our enemies. They have no right to know what we think. Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Often our anger is prompted by a distortion in our perception rather than an unacceptable reality. Once we began working off the script of our perception, the victim of our anger will often perceive the barrage as a personal attack, whether it is one or is an attempt to resolve a problem. It is a natural, although often not helpful, response to respond in kind in defense.

Conflict is good. Contention is bad. We do need to resolve conflicts. We do not need to do so in a contentious way that disrupts our organization. I highly recommend the book, Crucial Conversations, for learning how to resolve conflict without contention. This book is so jampacked with valuable knowledge that it should be read, reread and studied to fully master its principles. It has the potential to transform our careers and our personal lives.

Conflict is good. Contention is bad. We do need to resolve conflicts. We do not need to do so in a contentious way that disrupts our organization. I highly recommend the book, Crucial Conversations, for learning how to resolve conflict without contention. This book is so jampacked with valuable knowledge that it should be read, reread and studied to fully master its principles. It has the potential to transform our careers and our personal lives.

* Proverbs 19:11
** Proverbs 15:1
*** Proverbs 16:32

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Silence is NOT Golden

The English language is one of the most difficult languages to learn. That is, in part, because it is full of “sayings” or “idioms” that we use in everyday speech, most of which originate from cultures around the world. Such sayings make no linguistic sense unless you know the story behind them. Nearly all cultures pass wisdom down to us in stories and proverbs. Over time these stories are shortened to phrases, giving birth to these confusing riddles and idioms. One such idiom that dates back to the days of the Egyptians is, “speech is silver; silence is golden.”

This is wise advice to the child listening to his mom instruct him on what to do or not do, but in business, silence is not your friend. This is particularly true with individuals I work with on a daily basis in the career transition industry, such as those gainfully unemployed and recruiters looking for viable candidates for their client.

Here is what often happens. My client applies for a job, does not get a response, or gets an automatic, “thank you for your application,” message. Then the silence comes... for days and days. And it is in the silence that the situation starts to break down. My client creates a story around the WHY. “They must have Googled me and found xyz article... and have eliminated me from the candidate pool.” On the flip side, the recruiter or hiring agency may also be waiting for the candidate to follow-up, or perhaps they are waiting on their client to move the search forward. Again, the problem is the silence. The void of information, leaves us room to create a story, giving us room to build your reputation according to our perception. It is incredible really. Proof that human imagination is still thriving.

Here is how you can break the silence and take control of your reputation.

Keep in touch. Respond in a timely manner. Even when you do not have time to fully address a request or have an immediate answer; tell them that. Do not give them the opportunity to create a story. Stories created in silence are nearly always much more negative than the truth.

Remember: Both what you DO say and what you DO NOT say sends out a message. You bind your reputation to be what you want based on your behavior, which is entirely within your means of control. By responding and filling in the silence with your perception, you can build your reputation the way you want it to be built.

If breaking the silence is so easy, why do we not do it?

  1. We are not aware of our own impact on people. We do not realize that a simple communication from us, keeps others from judging us and creating a story to close the gap.
  2. We do not know how to say no, so we say nothing at all. While “no” might not be the desired response, it is an honest one, and at the very least shows respect to the person making the request, that ample consideration was at least given. People need to feel heard.

We need to do a better job closing the loop and in doing so we control our reputation. I continue to work on this area myself and strive to close every loop. To those I have not done this effectively with in the past, I sincerely apologize. The individual who consistently closes the loop separates himself/herself from the pack and will stand out in a positive way.

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Where’s your sweet spot? The balance between confidence and arrogance.

Why is it that too much of something becomes a bad thing? We have all heard that phrase, “too much of a good thing.” And while we might not like to admit it, it is true. I have a weakness for sugar, but if I eat it too often, I gain weight. This causes a chain reaction because being fit is also important to me. So, I compensate for this love of sugar by increasing my hours in the gym. As I increase my hours in the gym, I forgo time at home with my wife and family. Life is full of balancing acts like this one.

Another such balancing act is needed between confidence and arrogance. As an executive transition coach, I work with clients on confidence frequently. Although, it should be noted that even though I have been in the healthcare business for 30 years, I can name only 10 people I thought were truly arrogant. Most people in healthcare seem to be somewhat humble, but when that is overstated it too can become a negative.

What is arrogance? Somebody once said to me “confidence becomes arrogance when performance dips.” At what point does confidence become too much? When does arrogance come into play, and how can you strike a balance between the two? The answer lies in humility ...or rather in your ability to be humble.

Urban Dictionary states that, “To be humble is to have a realistic appreciation of your great strengths, but also of your weaknesses.”

Your confidence level is absolutely essential in securing your next position. Sometimes the client is overly afraid of coming across as cocky, other times the client is already so cocky, we have to work on humility and self-awareness. Whatever side of the spectrum the client falls on, we talk about ways to meet in the middle and find their sweet spot.

How to find your confidence sweet spot:

  1. Take an inventory of your professional accomplishments. Be honest with yourself. Be proud of yourself. Self-awareness is the first step in identifying whether you fall on the arrogant or the self-deprecatory side of the spectrum.
  2. Record yourself talking about your accomplishments. Then play it back so you can hear how you are coming across. Does it sound like bragging to you? Or perhaps you are actually downplaying the work you put into a project? Neither scenario is ideal, but if you are able to identify it, you can modify your message and practice a new approach to telling your story. One that is genuine and strikes a healthy balance between what you accomplished, while giving credit where due.
  3. Observe others. Seek out and observe people with the right level of confidence and write down your observations. It always helps in defining what the right level of confidence is for you.
  4. Ask a friend or two to be candid with you. Look at yourself through their eyes. Put your pride to the side and take note of any areas they identify where you could make improvements. This is sometimes very difficult and hard to hear, but if you really listen, it can be invaluable feedback.
  5. Be willing to take responsibility, but not too much. Arrogant people don’t like to take any responsibility, while confident people admit their error, and create an action plan to remedy the error.

Above all, be genuine and honest with not only everyone else, but perhaps most importantly -- to yourself. When you are able to see yourself objectively, both the positive and the negative, then you can speak confidently -- and with the right amount of humility -- during your next interview or conversation with a recruiter.

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Coding: Inpatient or Outpatient, Risks (and Benefits) Are Increasing E&M, DRG, APC, Risk Adjusted, CDI, and Hospice … It All Matters

“This article originally appeared on www.stout.com.

Ensure accurate coding and billing by reviewing the coding and compliance policies woven into a health system’s revenue cycle.

Because coding can be confusing and laborious it can often be overlooked and potentially not recognized as part of the revenue cycle process. Now more than ever before, coding reviews are an important component of a health system’s overall "value”-based payment continuum, due to continued scrutiny by Medicare/Medicaid and commercial payers. Health system executives are tasked with optimizing performance of and maximizing efficiency of the coding stage in the revenue cycle. Accurate coding leads to clean claims, which results in prompt reimbursement, and that’s why coding has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Coding is a moving target for many providers. Omnipresent and at times inconvenient and confusing, the ever-changing demands coupled with the risk of inaccuracy constantly challenges providers. With severity of care levels and clinical outcomes increasingly tied to “value,” reimbursements will inextricably link with accurate disease-state coding and documentation. Also, with provider compensation woven tightly to provider production (with emerging compensation models embracing quality and efficiency components, as well), accurate coding confirms both proper reimbursement to the system and accurate compensation for those providers on productivity models.

Educating providers mitigates downside risk to health systems and hospitals and offers leadership (the C-suite along with the physician executive team) the prophylactic of ongoing monitoring ensuring that the administrative/physician partnerships are cemented in a compliant manner.

Coding Compliance

A successful coding review and compliance plan should be crafted to define the hospital or health system’s investment and belief in coding compliance. A memorialization of the processes and procedures undertaken in a coding review enshrines that all constituents clearly understand the goals, objectives, and expectations of the hospital/system. Coding/compliance plans cannot be one-dimensional relying solely on documentation of services or an information technology solution. For instance, in a vacuum a provider can “pass” a coding assessment with proper documentation which generates work relative value units (wRVU). However, sometimes that productivity can be overly, and erroneously, robust given clinic hours, patient facing time, provider schedules, etc. Since most employed providers have a component of their compensation driven, at least in part, from a wRVU model, ensuring precise claim level of billing (e.g. a level 3 versus a level 5) offers physicians and health system leadership peace in the knowledge that claims, charges, and subsequent revenue are accurate.

Additionally, until block chain, “machine learning,” and other IT initiatives like artificial intelligence (AI) have firmly taken hold to “solve” coding and compliance issues, human-intervention will be required to certify that coding documentation aligns with patient facing time, required coding elements, and charting. EHRs can be dangerous when a user simply hap-hazardly “carries forward” a note which can offer a false sense of accuracy. Providers (physicians and APPs) must fully understand the rules and regulations of coding, especially in the critical nature of pay for value initiatives that are evolving over time. Additionally, and tangentially, carrying notes forward has potential med/mal exposure. All of that said, accurate coding is essential relative to severity of disease state, etc.

A Coding and Compliance Program - The "3 F's"

Frequency

Delineate a program of ongoing review and analysis. It should have well-defined expectations. The program should be structured with defined timelines, be diligent, and guarantee random sampling and a rotating sequence of providers (depending on group size) for review. In program development “acceptable” parameters should be constructed indicating varying rates of post-review monitoring and education. The program should be “owned” by a staff member (with backup) to ensure it is perpetual and robust.

Feedback

After reviews are performed, an expedient and concise feedback loop should be deployed displaying to providers deficiencies and providing education. For instance, if a provider “fails” 80% of his or her coding reviews for accuracy, he or she should be placed on a more frequent review process (every quarter?) as defined in the compliance plan to document a remediation process and catalogue improvement in accuracy.

The feedback loop should contain educational opportunities that celebrate successes and elucidate challenges. Providers should be counseled and offered “real time” assistance if coding issues or questions arise during the day.

Follow-up

The coding review should carry with it a robust follow-up plan ensuring that team members (from front desk to providers) understand that the plan is deployed and in force infusing into the culture a sense that the system or hospital takes, and will continue to take, coding compliance seriously. That is not to say that staff members should know that Dr. X failed his or her coding review. Instead, the message to staff should be that the system views coding compliance as a system-wide obligation and focus.

Stout’s coding/compliance leadership ties coding together with one point of contact to manage all aspects of review and education. Our seamless coding and compliance team delivers a variety of solutions based on client need. Stout associates manage outpatient, “pro fee” evaluation and management (E&M) and risk adjusted coding assessments and education, while deftly handling Ambulatory Payment Classification (APC), Diagnosis Resource Group (DRG), and Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI) coding initiatives for inpatient coding. Additionally, we are adept at hospice and home care coding analyses. Our “borderless” approach empowers our team to rapidly address client needs by removing artificial “silos” that inhibit fluidity on multi-faceted projects running between health system, inpatient work and ambulatory reviews. Stout associates understand the congruency of in and outpatient facilities and can deliver reviews and offer a coding/compliance partner.

* To read more about Stout’s experience and how we provided a 15 to 1 return on a client’s initial investment by helping them improve on their revenuecycle, download our case study now.

Physician Compensation Value-Based Care Initiatives Bring Disruption

a href=http://www.wiederholdassoc.com/blog/2018/10/19/physician-executives-are-you-utilizing-their-talent>Physician Executives – Are You Utilizing Their Talent?

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Physician Executives: Are You Utilizing Their Talent?

“This article originally appeared on www.stout.com.

It is vital to anticipate how revenue cycle reports will be viewed across the organization.

If you are a hospital or health system with disengaged physicians, you are missing the boat (and probably bumping along, operationally and financially). Sound physician executive leadership empowers health systems to deploy curative operational solutions, offers providers input and a stake, and engages the physicians as valued partners versus cogs in the machine.

We recently performed a health system operational turnaround where the system was significantly subsidizing their employed physician network (e.g. losing money per physician). An undergirding issue (among many) was the lack of physician input into the organization. This reality left physicians fragmented, unappreciated, and undervalued. While there existed no discernable ill-will or animus, the physicians simply were not engaged nor asked to provide their input and insight. This chasm lent to chaotic differentiation from clinic to clinic amongst the system’s 16 clinic locations.

As a component of the overall structural rebuild we were engaged to perform, an immediate need was the creation of a physician advisory committee (PAC). As will be discussed, the implementation of a PAC had a direct impact on the health system’s revenue cycle. Within one year, system subsidies were reduced by 75% helping the system claw back toward profitability.

Setting the Table

In the instant situation, the health system was hemorrhaging cash. An operational assessment was performed on each clinic site. As part of the post-assessment implementation and rebuild, a PAC was created. Our team suggested that, out of the gate (and at least as a Band Aid) the system define and immediately select, even if temporarily, physicians who exhibited tendencies toward engagement. The key was identifying physicians engaged in affecting change but who, to this point, had not been asked to. (While building the PAC quickly is not ideal, this build drove the hospital system to immediately draw from the talented physicians who sought to make a difference).

Standards, rules, and measures were delineated vis-à-vis tenure, mission, duties, etc. Each physician on the committee was known to be an “invested” partner who, to this point, had had no voice.

In the newly born committee, the physicians:

  • provided an avenue for physician input and enhanced bi-directional communication
  • provided a litmus for possible changes (e.g. comp plan redesign)
  • created quality initiatives
  • offered peer review and guidance
  • offered emotional buy-in and intellectual contributions
  • became valued partners
  • established key operational standards throughout the physician network
  • advised/consented on issues (the executive office maintained the final say)
  • had meetings that were agenda driven, and
  • assisted with electronic health record (EHR) optimization

While many of these items can be tackled by the C-suite, the reality is that most folks in the administrative offices don’t practice medicine and it is certainly easier to hear a message from a peer who lives the life you lead versus one who has not walked in your shoes.

Whether a network is large or small, some form of physician committee is advised and models are malleable and scalable; there is no one right answer. Two rudimentary (and simple) examples follow.

Figure 1: Small Health System

In a small system, as with the client referenced earlier (75 physicians), the PAC should have a limited number of participants (prorata specialty representation) and a well-defined scope of authority. In this case, the PAC might be constructed of 6 physicians of differing specialties. (In our turnaround situation, due to the urgency of time, the PAC was entirely staffed by internal medicine physicians and the size of the system and specialty medical staff rendered that sound, at least in the emergent near-term).

The PAC receives input and provides feedback to the employed physicians. And, if this is a clinically integrated model (CIM) with outside community physicians involved, they may be included to provide a consultative input role that offers thoughts apropos of care and quality (e.g. population health initiatives, etc.). The PAC then provides input to some sort of nimble (e.g. “small” in size) Executive Committee which may include representation from the PAC, the CEO, COO, CMO, CTO, etc., to work on and resolve the issues.

The feedback then flows back through to clinicians via the PAC.

Figure 2: Large Health System, with diverse subspecialty representation

In a larger health/hospital system, the PAC might have an expanded multi-specialty representation and may be larger in membership/construct. The system may have one physician representing each specialty who serves as a conduit for his or her specialty constituency. For instance, a system might have a cardiologist who is the lead for the other cardiologists to ensure that their specialty-specific needs are addressed. The cardiology lead might then serve on the PAC or report up the concerns of the “cardiology section.” These issues would then be addressed by the PAC. (Remember, this construct does not limit or hinder provider access to the administrative offices and/or the CEO. It simply provides a structured method to obtain and deploy input from clinicians.)

Ideally, representation as either the “section lead” or on the PAC should be voted on by peers. This engenders greater support and commitment from other physicians. That said, the “section lead” should be a leader, not an antagonist. A representative with an axe to grind for some 10-year-old grievance (real or imagined) does no service to the organization and is counterproductive. Only honest brokers out for the betterment of the organization and their constituents need apply.

This model is scalable based on the number of constituencies. As with the small group model, a well-defined scope of authority should be deployed. In this case, the PAC might be constructed of physicians of differing specialties due to the diversity of specialization/sub-specialization within the system. The PAC receives input and provides feedback to the employed physicians. And, as with the small system model, if this is a clinically integrated model (CIM) with outside community physicians involved, they may be included to provide a consultative input role that offers thoughts on care, quality, and continuity of care (e.g. population health initiatives, etc.) throughout the community.

Will creation of a PAC cure all of a health system’s financial and operational woes? Certainly not. But your valued partners can go a long way to flattening the curve and remedying structural deficiencies.

* To read more about Stout’s experience and how we provided a 15 to 1 return on a client’s initial investment by helping them improve on their revenuecycle, download our case study now.

Read other posts by Jeff:

Physician Compensation Value-Based Care Initiatives Bring Disruption

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