June 19, 2018
Seven Steps Towards Transparency
Healthcare leaders know greater exposure will be the new norm. But even those looking to embrace transparency need somewhere to start.
The following seven steps are a snapshot and provide a jumping-off point for leaders looking to bring the healthcare industry into the light.
Align Your C-Suite
Leaders of health systems – especially ones that have recently merged – need to make sure that everyone understands shared goals. “You can’t have people leaving a senior leadership meeting and undermining a system goal,” says former Ascension executive and Saint Thomas Health CEO Mike Schatzlein.
Reward Transparent Behavior
“You have to talk about the merits and the benefits of transparency,” says James O’Toole, a business professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. “You have to make sure there aren’t hidden incentives to keep information close to the vest.”
Employ the Right People, then Model Transparency
Building a transparent culture starts with the hiring process, according to CleanSlate CEO Greg Marotta.
“You’ve got to ensure you have the right people on the team – people who are willing to be vulnerable and put themselves out there.” Then leaders need to demonstrate the behavior they want mirrored.
“From a leader’s perspective, you’ve got to share information and welcome conversations and everyone else should follow your lead,” he said. “That’s how we move the dial with our culture.”
Partner with Competitors
Several leaders looking to drive change in care have found that they need the knowledge and resources that come from partnering – sometimes with providers whom they’ve formerly viewed as competitors and sometimes with insurers or other strange bedfellows. For these partnerships to work, providers often need to share data they’ve previously protected. This requires a new level of trust, clear definitions of what can and can’t be shared and an emphasis on and thorough understanding of the common goal. It’s a different mindset, but possible, and often crucial for survival.
Explain What You Can’t Say
As a leader of a health system, you can’t say everything. There are often legal reasons you can’t disclose the terms of a merger, for example, or reveal the workings behind initiatives that involve patient data. Explain what you can’t disclose. Then explain the reasoning behind what you can’t say – which should always be to protect your employees and your patients. Finally, demonstrate how, despite the fact that you can’t release certain information, you are working to evolve care for the better.
Question What You Can’t Say
You can’t say everything, but you can say more than you think. Leaders should examine they information they protect and question who that lack of transparency serves. Certain information that has been considered dangerous to release can be helpful. The clearest example of this is employee compensation, claims the USC’s O’Toole.
“For a very long time, the information most tightly held in any organization was who’s getting paid how much,” he said. Employers feared that employees would feel they were being cheated if their compensation was made public.
“But what was discovered over 20 years ago was that, actually, by posting the information, the morale of an organization improves,” O’Toole said. “Most people, for whatever psychosocial reason, assume they’re being paid unfairly. But in fact, in most organizations there really is an effort to pay people fairly. Releasing that information then, leads to greater motivation, loyalty and greater trust.”
Act proactively. Assess your vulnerabilities and prepare a crisis plan, but also anticipate the demand for transparency and be the voice of the patient or the business owner. Be the cornerstone for care throughout the community and advocate for affordable, accessible services. The market demand for this type of advocate is there and someone will fill it. We recommend starting now.