Back From CA

The annual meeting of the American Health Lawyers Association in early July in San Diego was full of cutting edge information. Relevant to a conflict management/dispute resolution practice, there were a good number of lawyers heard expressing interest in earlier, better ways to help disparate interest groups in health care work together. An area of potential disputes crying out for effective dispute resolution and communications assistance is that of medical staff relationships and peer review proceedings. The issue is ripe for effective communications facilitation and for constructive interventions.

(This was also discussed in a MAY issue of the American Medical Association News.)

Jane Reister Conard and I will speak on this subject, specifically skills and process for use by medical staff support offices and leaders, at the NAMSS Annual Educational Conference in Florida from September 21-25. Our program is scheduled for the afternoon of the 23rd.

Another area ripe for constructive intervention is how physicians and hospital leaders should negotiate more effectively to be better prepared to work together in successful employer-employee relationships. The pitfalls - differences of opinion - that can readily occur between administration and medical staff  should be anticipated and acknowledged. How to work through some of these issues during negotiations and later in the course of the employment relationship in a problem solving manner was discussed by Theresa Williams and Ann Bittinger at the AHLA meeting. 

 General Counsel Paul Harris also spoke of changes made by leadership and others in a health system to forge trusting work relationships. In the context of a rapidly expanding health system, such relationships are more critical. His observations that it is easy  [for all of us] to dip back into prior habits, that it takes years to settle firmly into newer work protocols and relationships, and that it is important to create accountability for those who hold fast to old ways of communicating  (e.g. the hard line in the sand school of negotiation) were both wise and practical. He is a firm believer in strenghtening communication and constructive problem solving approaches and can see concrete results from their use.

Work Relationships in healthcare  built on Respect are values we have urged for some time. It is hopeful to hear these "R" words repeated more frequently. Learning communication and problem solving skills and being alert for opportunities to use them is not pie-in-the sky theory or wishful thinking but is the timely, practical response to the enormous change and uncertainty that permeates healthcare delivery. New tools for new times. New needs call for new attitudes.



Jeanne Franklin