The Role of Human Resources in Patient-Centered Care

The Role of Human Resources in Patient-Centered Care

Regina Levison, Jordan Search Consultants’ Vice President of Client Development, recently attended the Idaho MGMA annual conference, appropriately themed Navigating the Future.  The session that stood out most for Regina was The Role of Human Resources in Patient Centered Care, presented by Michelle Wier, MBA, CMPE, co-founder of V2V Management Solutions.  Michelle is a highly-experienced medical group executive, serving as the MGMA Western Section Liaison as well as having been Past President of the Idaho chapter of MGMA.

Regina had the pleasure of meeting with Michelle after her presentation to ask her some of today’s most pressing questions about patient-centered care. The interview included questions like:

Q. What exactly is patient-centered care?

A. Patient-centered care is relationship-based and ensures that a patient feels known, respected, involved, engaged, and knowledgeable. True patient-centered care includes many aspects of transformational change regarding the design of business and clinical care models.

Q. How is patient-centered care impacting the human resources function in small, medium, and large medical groups?

A. Making certain that every aspect of your organization is staged to support patient-centered care often presents HR managers with the challenge of culture transformation, which speaks to an HR leader’s bandwidth to foster an environment that engages patients. Not surprisingly, larger organizations have dedicated HR staff members. In contrast, at small- and medium-size practice groups the administrators often wear many hats. So, the size of the organization may influence the time it takes to foster true transformation. When you are tasked with fulfilling multiple roles within a single job description, it is easier to lose sight of the work necessary to innovate culture.

Q. What are the best human resources tips you can give medical practice executives and administrators who are leading medical groups involved in patient-centered care?

A. Here are six recommendations:

  1. Understand your motive and strategy. There are many factors driving organizations to embrace a patient-centered care model: reimbursement changes, lowering costs across the system, improved patient outcomes, better patient experiences, and even better provider and care team experiences. Begin with the end in mind to create a plan for achieving your goals and, most importantly, to know when you have achieved them.
  2. Know your likely customers and how they feel about your organization. Moving towards a patient-centered culture means far more than changing a few processes and adding new care coordination roles. Patient buy-in is key. Also key is your team’s willingness to take on a new mindset. Monitoring satisfaction and engagement allows you to keep your team’s engagement and experience as high a priority as your patients.
  3. Get involved in understanding and assessing current program efficiencies. Within your organization, what processes are working and what waste can be removed? These questions may have you stepping outside the traditional confines of an HR role, but will help design the most effective positions for supporting patient-centered care. In smaller organizations, this is not as much of a challenge because one person is managing many aspects of a medical practice. In larger systems where HR may be disconnected from operations, this is a greater challenge. I suggest that the HR role serves to set the tone and culture of an organization through its functional responsibilities.
  4. Focus on your organizational teams to create the practice infrastructure. This helps ensure continuous learning and improvement of patient-centered and team-based care. This includes defining and tracking measurable and specific goals for the team, as a whole, and the individual team members. Consider providing printed or video training resources that allow team members to refer back to their materials.
  5. Be patient. Know that true shifts in both process and culture take time.
  6. Provide sustainable resources beyond staff meeting discussions. This will support and reinforce the importance of the transformation process to the organization. It is critical to ensure that all the job descriptions in an organization embrace the culture of patient-centered care; not just those within your clinical care team. With job descriptions that keep the patient in the center of the process, you are positioned to recruit team members with this as a core focus.

Q. What area is most often overlooked when changing care delivery?

A. Over the past decade, healthcare organizations were challenged with many new regulations and reimbursement requirements. When new processes are layered on top of old processes, things get unnecessarily complicated. What ends up getting overlooked is the critical step of figuring out what you can stop doing before adding the next new process. Our industry has become begrudgingly accepting of changing processes, adding in new information that must be captured, and piling onto our workflows without truly stepping back and assessing what is necessary and what can be eliminated. In our experience, what is lost in the process is the focus on the culture of the organization and the strategy needed to transform the business of care delivery.

Q. Jordan Search has been writing and speaking about the role of organizational culture in executive and physician recruitment as well as the impact on retention.  How does organizational culture impact hiring at staff levels in a medical group providing clinically integrated care?

A. Culture is KING. It is important for HR recruitment to ensure that the desired culture is imbedded in the company job descriptions, performance expectations, and hiring processes—regardless of the particular role.

Culture is driven from the top. If the actions of your leadership team do not support the desired culture, it is highly unlikely you will see support teams embracing the changes. Accountability becomes a significant component to ensuring the desired culture exists within an organization. HR supports accountability by defining clear performance expectations and measurements. One thing is certain, organizational culture should remain in the forefront of an organization’s strategic planning initiatives.

Q. Where can medical practice administrators find resources and human resources support when their organizations are implementing changes in care delivery?

A. There are many resources available regarding patient-centered care and practice transformation. Some resources I have used include:


Michelle Wier

With a degree in accounting and a master’s in business administration, Michelle is an executive leader who has impacted primary and multi-specialty practices, ambulatory surgery centers, and dialysis and home health centers. As an MGMA Western Section Liaison and past President of the Idaho MGMA chapter, she understands the mission that drives us toward continuous learning and operational performance.


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