The concept of culture is talked about quite a bit in healthcare. Simply stated, it is “how we do things around here.” Your culture is what makes it acceptable for employees to walk past visitors and patients without eye contact or a verbal greeting. It is what makes it entirely normal for staff to enter a patient’s room without knocking and to arrive 15 minutes late to a meeting then spend the allotted meeting time sending text messages and checking e-mail. Or it is what makes employees go the extra mile for one another and their patients.
When was the last time you took a good, honest look at your culture, then stacked it up against your mission, vision, values, and brand promise? If you haven’t done so, it’s time. Without that baseline information, it will be extremely difficult to understand why your patient, physician, and employee satisfaction are less than satisfactory or why volumes are plummeting while staff vacancies rise.
I am a nurse, so I can’t help myself from making medical analogies. Your patient satisfaction data provides you with symptoms of the culture. You may struggle with one area or another and feel confused about why you cannot bring the satisfaction scores up. Understanding the culture is like having a complete physical along with a thorough medical history. Once that is completed, you will understand the symptoms presented through the data and will be able to take steps to make the necessary changes in context of the existing culture.
Doing culture assessments in healthcare organizations is by far one of the most gratifying parts of my work. Bringing a fresh pair of eyes into an organization typically yields more than one AHA! moment. For health care leaders who are open to the truth, a thorough culture assessment allows us to hold up the mirror and say, “Here is how others see your organization.”
What is included in a culture assessment? Both quantitative and qualitative data gleaned from your stakeholders including patients, visitors, employees, executives, managers, physicians, and community members. We conduct mystery shopping to get the inside scoop on the patient experience. In addition to that, we do a series of focus groups with staff and managers and a number of in-depth interviews with executives, physicians, and other stakeholders. In addition to that, we review any existing data to find common threads that link the data back to the perceptions and attitudes shared by the stakeholders.
Once you have the information and recommendations, you can begin to move toward your goals with confidence and a clear baseline.
Your culture often creates blind spots as you try to drive your organization forward. Get a clearer picture of it, and you are much more likely to understand the subtle barriers that have stymied progress in the past.