A tidal wave of Americans who were uninsured will suddenly be able to use previously out-of-reach healthcare services. Even the most conservative estimates predict a flood of new healthcare consumers as a result of healthcare reform. Many experts think it will be in the neighborhood of 30-40 million.
We know some things about these new healthcare consumers. We know many will have a need for services. We know many have not sought care within the last year. We know a significant portion haven’t had a primary care physician. And because they have not been active consumers they are likely to have lower levels of health literacy when it comes to navigating the health care system and their insurance coverage.
So what does this mean for our frontline healthcare teams? It means they will have to bear the demands and stresses of an increased patient load and navigate the many consequences that result.
Most healthcare organizations aren’t actively expanding to meet this expected demand (Some are…and should be lauded for it!). In fact many are trying to cut costs and spend less (that’s a whole different blog post). It’s apparent to most that in the coming months (years even) healthcare teams will be challenged to do more with less.
Providers and their teams will be asked to deal with even busier waiting rooms and crowded schedules. They will have to spend more time and energy explaining, assisting, and educating their patient population. They will be face-to-face with healthcare consumers frustrations over wait times, scheduling, and access to their providers. It’s a recipe for stress, disengagement, and team dysfunction.
Teambuilding, now more than ever, is critical for healthcare teams.
When the new normal starts some teams will rally and overcome. Others will spiral out of control. Those teams where there’s infighting, back-biting, gossip, and negative attitudes will be a nightmare. Those teams populated by people who say “that’s not my job” or who pick and choose what tasks, what patients, what phone calls, what responsibilities they want to do while leaving others, are headed for disaster. Those teams where a class system exists, one that dictates that certain roles are above doing certain things, will be crippled by the strain about to hit the system.
But those teams that truly know how to collaborate will keep their heads above water. Teams populated by individuals with emotional intelligence, who figure out how not to take out the stresses and demands on each other, will thrive. The teams that share the work evenly and selflessly and believe fully that others cannot do their jobs well unless they do theirs well can handle what’s coming down the pike. Healthcare teams that work daily to treat each other with dignity and respect will get through it…day to day…together.
If you are a front-line or mid-level manager in healthcare you have just over 2 months to start these kinds of conversations. Start them now. Challenge your team members to look in the mirror and to own the interpersonal and communication behaviors that work against team performance. Identify new behaviors to adopt. Find ways to connect everyone to a singular purpose greater than self. Showcase the value everyone brings to meeting that purpose to cultivate an understanding that they are truly “all in this together.” Find ways to nurture interaction beyond the context of day-to-day job duties to allow co-workers to see each other as people. It will help…guaranteed.
It’s easy to get caught up in preparing for the logistics of healthcare reform. Let’s not lose sight of the emotional and interpersonal demands our healthcare teams will bear as well. Prepare them to work more effectively together and everyone- patients, providers, team members, and you- will be glad you did.
- The One Thing All Healthcare Organizations Must Do in the Next 12 Months (joemull77.wordpress.com)