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Updating management skills for the '90s.

That hospitals and laboratories are finding it increasingly hard to compete is beyond question. Rising employee turnover, skyrocketing operating costs, and increasing malpractice lawsuits are only a few of the problems being faced in this difficult decade. Under the hierarchical, multilayered management structure that now prevails in hospitals, it's not surprising that entering the future will cause pain--and require drastic changes.

Attendees at the 1991 American Hospital Association (AHA) convention heard constructive advice from management experts on how to survive the 1990s. They warned that hospitals must drastically change their management style and the way they deliver client services unless they want to encounter even higher costs. Since their recommendations are applicable to middle management in laboratories as well as in hospitals overall, laboratorians may benefit from their observations.

* Customer satisfaction. More attention should be focused on improving services that may currently create negative impressions. Dirty restrooms, open trash baskets in laboratory drawing stations, and poorly groomed employees may imply to patients that a laboratory provides inadequate care.

Managers must give higher priority to customer satisfaction, revising salary structures to reflect advances or declines in that important factor of success. One expert recommends basing half of managers' salaries on customer satisfaction ratings, as revealed through client surveys.

* Turnover. While some managers view employee turnover as a recruitment problem, enlightened managers recognize it as a retention problem. Altering behavioral and management style is a step in the right direction. When more than 5% of the staff continually go through the revolving door, something is seriously wrong.

Self-image an important factor in keeping a good workers. The speaker noted that managers can positively influence staff motivation and improve their productivity by treating them as equals. The staff may appreciate being called "associates," for example, rather than "subordinates"--which often translates as "inferiors." Updating and upgrading job titles or designations cost nothing.

* Middle managers. The success of an institution depends largely on the performance of middle management. Unfortunately, many of today's health care managers do not display the qualities needed to keep ahead of the competition. These individuals:

* Perform duties that should be done by first-line supervisors;

* Lack the skills necessary to lead supervisors and staff and to promote teamwork among all employees;

* Are unable to solve interdepartmental problems without the assistance of senior management;

* Do not understand the overall goals and strategic plans of their institutions; and

* View the physician, not the patient, as the customer.

Health care managers must be ready and able to react to a constantly changing environment. They must revisit institutional goals frequently, relieving top management of their operational decisions. They must serve as coaches and mentors for first-line supervisors and work with them diligently to develop their employees.

Management styles must consist of encouraging individual decision making rather than dictating endless rules. Empowering staff members to make their own decisions enhances operations and creates a work climate suited to meeting the challenges of the 1990s.

Administrators will seek managers who can bring these attitudes and skills to the job. Managers who are unwilling or unable to change may find themselves replaced by individuals who meet the new requirements.

Next month's Viewpoint column will take a closer look at the skills middle managers must develop to survive the decade.

General references:

Eubanks, P. Hospitals seek to fill the gaps in middle managers' skills. Hospitals 65(12): 48, 50, June 20, 1991.

Kenkel, P.J. Expert outlines treatment for management maladies. Mod. Healthcare 21(29): 34-35, July 22, 1991.

Pallarito, K. 10 "role shifts" for a more dynamic leadership style. Mod. Healthcare 21(29): 37-38, July 22, 1991.

The author is a management consultant and educator; director of Health Management Analysts, Woodland, Calif.; and laboratory operations adviser, Ernst & Young, Great Lakes Region, Cleveland.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Viewpoint; hospitals and laboratories
Author:Barros, Annamarie
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:A look at physician-owned labs.
Next Article:OSHA rules on AIDS protection due by Dec. 1.

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