Observation Deck – Attitude Counts

This month, in “10 People to Watch in Healthcare Contracting,” we celebrate your profession. The purpose of this feature is not to place 10 individuals on a pedestal. (There are many people whom we could have spotlighted. And, in the years ahead, we’ll do just that!) Rather, it is to identify some of the attitudes and strategies that spell success in this business. Here are just a few:

The ability to think on one’s feet in order to accomplish what’s best for the hospital or system. So, if the physicians in one of your IDN’s facilities are willing to talk standardization while those in another are not, don’t fight it. Thinking on one’s feet sometimes means knowing when to come down heavily and when to tread lightly.
The willingness to get to know your clinicians. This one can really pay off, considering the highest dollar items are often the ones that are most clinician sensitive. The successful contracting professionals take the time to understand why their clinicians want a particular product. Of course, getting to know clinicians means overcoming fears of getting eaten alive. You know better than anyone that many contracting professionals’ reputations precede them. But fear not; others are bridging the chasm. You can, too.
Reliance upon data. How many times have we been told that doctors respect data? They’re scientists, after all. They’ll listen to facts. As one of our 10 People notes, with data, contracting professionals are in a position to can the “good citizen” speeches, in which they appeal to doctors’ sense of responsibility to their hospitals (or worse, their senses of guilt) in an effort to start using a lower cost brand of whatever. Good data allows contracting professionals to identify the costs and benefits of switching brands, standardizing on one or two, or simply maintaining the status quo without the emotions commonly associated with such discussions.
Respect for the people who work for you. Ever noticed how the most successful people tend to have the highest praise for their teams? I’m not sure if praise breeds success or vice versa. Nor do I know what the management textbooks have to say on this matter. But what seems clear is that staff members who are trusted and empowered seem to get more done. Hence, they allow their bosses to get more done.
Fearlessness about attacking physician-preference items. Each of the Ten People is proud of tackling high-cost, physician-preference items. Some are going it alone, others are leaning on their GPOs to help. Either way, these contracting professionals are convinced that the big-dollar savings lie with physician-preference items. And they’re going after them.
A belief in their own professionalism. We’re way past the days when “high performance” among purchasing agents was defined as the ability to quickly process requisitions and purchase orders. To win respect, contracting professionals need to be professionals. They need to respect themselves and their roles in their organizations, and they need to act the part of professionals. Among other things, that means they come to meetings and negotiation sessions prepared and well rehearsed.

Success seems to begin with attitude. A good attitude leads to action. This year’s “Ten People to Watch” exemplifies both.

About the Author

Mark Thill
Mark Thill is the Editor of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and has been reporting on healthcare supply chain issues since 1985. He is a graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and he received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
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