Empowering Medical Practice Staff and Mitigating Risk

January 23, 2014

Angelo Scozia of Willis North America discusses using human capital to mitigate medical practice risk and how to empower your employees.

The culmination of this three-part series focuses on the most effective techniques for mitigating risk empowering people using human capital optimization tips from Angelo Scozia of Willis North America. Given the multiple changes and programs being implemented, it is important for physicians and other providers not to lose sight of their most valuable asset – their workforce.

Rachel V. Rose:Human error has the significant potential for harm in healthcare (i.e., adverse patient outcomes, HIPAA security, and technical errors that can lead to breaches). How can medical practices emphasize the importance of their human capital to mitigate risk?

Angelo Scozia This is a critical area that, when the best people are hired, can be satisfactorily addressed.

From a structural standpoint, having a compliance officer is critical. Giving that person a team will also help. If your practice cannot absorb this cost, outsource to legal and/or compliance consultants that have proven to obtain compliance results. Do not stop there: Invest in technologies that can auto-encrypt, store where necessary, and track where necessary, ultimately protecting information, to eliminate the human error element from the equation. Moreover, utilizing outside consultants to develop employee-friendly policies, procedures, and training modules should also help reduce errors. In addition, the provider can offer meaningful incentives for excellent employee compliance results. Invite compliance experts from outside the employer to host a lunch-and-learn with employees. Often an outside perspective resonates more than standard messaging. Finally, communicate constantly. With turnover, new hires, new laws, and new best practices constantly emerging, annual communication is not enough. Being proactive is key to all of this. For example, it is imperative to train, reinforce, and reward for positive compliance before an error occurs. Creating a culture of positive compliance will go a long way. Make this part of your organization’s mission. After all, this philosophy protects the customer: patients.

RR:What are some of the most effective ways to empower medical practice staff?

AS: In other words, what incentives are working? This is the $64,000 question. I think the "Holy Grail" in the world we are in is transparency and instant gratification.

First, hire the right people, as we have proposed ad nauseam in this series. Next, tell those people exactly what is expected of them and learn what are the employee’s expectations of you and your company. Third, tell them the types of rewards (and how often rewards will be provided) that are typically associated with meeting or exceeding those expectations. Fourth, learn what motivates that particular individual. Perhaps it is a day at the spa for a working mother or a round of golf for single employee. Finally, follow through on the reward.

Underlying this philosophy is some kind of benefits and retirement package. This might look like a medical, dental, life, disability, vision, voluntary benefit, and profit-sharing retirement plan arrangement. Employees actually value benefits. Benefits are valued not because employees generally quantify benefit values against the open market, this rarely occurs, although it should occur more, but more because a basic risk protection package is expected. All of these statements pertain to an employer that considers its employees an investment, not an expense. Cost becomes less of an issue when organizational performance and revenues increase due to having engaged, productive and tenured human capital. With a human capital optimization strategy, better, more interactive, and engaged organizations will emerge. This should positively impact the patient experience and results. At least trying to get the right strategy is not an option in the global economy for talent and rewards.

Angelo Scozia, CEBS, is a vice president for Willis North America's Human Capital Practice. E-mail him here. NOTE: The views expressed herein are of the interviewee only and not that of Willis North America, Inc.