Quality Patient Outcomes Begin With Trust
—Adapted from “The Four Keys to Better-Performing Collaborations,” O’Brien Group.
The forces shaping the future of healthcare are putting increasing pressure on all players in the medical community to forge more effective partnerships and collaborations if they are to achieve quality patient outcomes at reduced cost. The foundation of these successful partnerships and collaborations is trust.
Trust can be simply defined as an outcome based on repeated interactions, characterized by specific behaviors that drive high performance. Research has shown that trust isn’t a given, but has to be earned. Further, once compromised, it is not easily restored. So, what does it take to trust and be trusted? Here’s a look at some trust-building practices.
This is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. We tend to admire people like this because they bring decisiveness and direction to situations where it’s needed. Straightforwardness is essential when, for example, clinicians are giving a diagnosis, prescribing a treatment plan or offering a team member feedback. It is a key trait whenever critical business decisions need to be made, standards upheld or policies enforced. It is essential for the governance of healthcare systems, which relies on the strength of the relationship between physicians and administrators.
Trust grows when your actions are aligned with your thoughts, values and beliefs. In other words, when you’re straightforward with people, their trust increases because they never have to guess what your intentions are.
Transitioning to a leadership role in any organization is fraught with pitfalls. This is especially true for physicians ascending to leadership in the governance of a hospital or healthcare system. The independent, authoritative approach that often works well for physician practitioners falls flat when it comes to leading organizations at a high level. To succeed in this more complex kind of leadership, physicians need to cultivate the quality of openness.
Leaders who internalize the concept of openness have the psychological hardiness to interact with others in ways that make them want to open up too. So when problems arise in the trenches, when timelines slip or mistakes are made, the probability that their colleagues will share relevant information before it becomes a crisis is raised. Time and money are saved, objectives are met, trusting relationships are solidified and everybody wins.
Mistakes happen. People forget, drop the ball and break agreements. Leaders encounter any or all of these situations in the space of a day, sometimes within themselves. How they respond reflects their level of acceptance: the ability to attack the problem and not the person; to consciously work to uphold the dignity of others even when justifiably unhappy with them.
People who make mistakes, voice resentments, dig in their heels and otherwise make a leader’s job difficult are just that—people. Bias can be subtle and insidious, but its counterpart, acceptance, is a skill that can be learned. The payoff is psychological safety and the absence of fear, which makes it possible for people to engage in all of the other trust-building practices.
Making and keeping promises is the foundation of reliability and it is essential to good leadership and good business. The absence of reliability leads to breakdowns in the form of conflict and loss of credibility. Reliability is a practice that distinguishes the “go-to” people—those who are always busy, yet always have the energy to take on the next thing. They are counted on because they inspire confidence that they will come through again and again on the promises they make. Trust grows when you make and keep your promises.