Biennial Review of Health Care Management: Meso Perspective: Volume 8


Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Eric Williams and his colleagues review the literature on both physician burnout and physician–patient communication. A major contribution in this chapter is a model based on these two literatures, which outlines the impact that physician burnout can have on the physician–patient interaction and, therefore, patient outcomes. When physicians become emotionally exhausted, they begin to depersonalize to cope and focus on biomedical issues rather than communicating with the patient. When the patient is approached with this communication style from their physicians, they become less satisfied, trusting, and compliant. Less compliance results in worsened clinical outcomes, especially for patients with chronic disease. The authors discuss both the implications of this model and future directions for research.

The physician–patient relationship is the cornerstone of care quality. Unfortunately, it may be adversely affected by physician burnout, which is becoming more prevalent according to the literature. We present a model, based on the burnout and physician–patient communication literatures, which delineates the impact of physician burnout on the physician–patient interaction and ultimately on patient outcomes. In short, when physicians use depersonalization to cope with emotional exhaustion, their communication style becomes more biomedically oriented. Faced with this communication style when interacting with their physician, patients are less satisfied, trusting, and adherent. The implications of this model and directions for future research are presented.

Resource constraints in the Canadian publicly funded healthcare system have created a need for more volunteer leaders to effectively manage other volunteers. Self-concept theory has been conceptualized and applied within a volunteer context, and the views of healthcare stakeholders, such as volunteers, volunteer leaders, and supervisors, triangulated to form an understanding of the attitudes and behaviors of volunteer leaders. We propose that leaders are differentiated from others by how they view their roles in the organization and their ability to make a difference in these roles. This interpretation can be informed by self-concept theory because each individual's notion of self-concept influences how employees see themselves, how they react to experiences, and how they allow these experiences to shape their motivation. A small case study profiles a volunteer leader self-concept that includes a proactive, learning-oriented attitude, capitalizing on significant prior work experience to fulfill a sense of obligation to the institution and its patients, and demands a high level of respect from paid employees.

This research explored the literature regarding successful leadership practices and how these practices form the organizational context that leads to success in the biotechnology industry. Dominate themes emerged in general leadership strategies, leading research and development scientists, moving ideas from research to the consumer and the culture of research versus practice. Themes include leaders must be adaptable and able to lead effectively in a dynamic environment. Leaders need to consistently articulate the vision throughout the organization. Leaders need to be strategic decision-makers and flexible enough to allow the vision to adjust to the culture and the environment. Leaders need to communicate effectively and create an organization where communication flows efficiently at all levels. Leaders need to recognize clear cultural differences between functional groups, and they need to empower employees at all levels to make strategic decisions. Leaders need to know which decisions must be retained as his or her sole responsibility.

The Institute of Medicine's seminal report, To err is human: Building a safer health system, established the national patient safety framework and initiated interest in changing the traditionally punitive healthcare culture. This paper reviews a multidisciplinary literature and offers an attribution framework to explicate the organizational processes that contribute to an industry-wide culture where clinicians are routinely blamed for adverse patient events. Attribution theory is concerned with the manner in which people explain the behaviors of others or themselves by assigning causality for events. To date, attribution theory, though well established in the management literature, has yet to be translated to healthcare. In this paper, we first describe the historical evolution of attribution theory in relation to human behavior in clinical practice and healthcare management and then discuss the work environments in contemporary healthcare organizations. Next, we demonstrate the applicability of attribution theory to healthcare by providing two adverse event exemplar cases. Then, the Healthcare Attribution Error Model is offered to demonstrate how concepts from attribution theory serve as antecedents to the employee cynicism, learned helplessness, organizational inertia, and the emerging Just Culture perspective. We conclude by suggesting attribution theory offers an important theoretical framework that warrants further conceptual development and empirical research. In the quest to produce exceptional healthcare environments where safety and quality are fundamental employee concerns, healthcare managers and clinical professionals need theoretically supported knowledge and evidence-based insights.

Background – Reliable and valid hospital nurse staffing measures are a major requirement for health services research. As the use of these measures increases, discussion is growing as to whether current nurse staffing measures adequately meet the needs of health services researchers.

Objective – This study assesses whether the measures, sampling frameworks, and data sources meet the needs of health services research in areas such as staffing assessment; patient, nurse, and financial outcomes; and prediction of staffing.

Methods – We performed a systematic review of articles from 1990 through 2007, which use hospital nurse staffing measures in original research, or which address the validity, reliability, and availability of the measures. Taxonomies of measures, sampling frameworks, and sources were developed. Articles were analyzed to assess what measures, sampling strategies, and sources of data were used and to ascertain whether the measures, samples, and sources meet the needs of researchers.

Results – The review identified 107 articles that use hospital nurse staffing measures for original research. Multiple types of measures, some of which are used more often than others and some of which are more valid than others, exist in each of the following categories: staffing counts, staffing/patient load ratios, and skill mix. Sampling frameworks range from hospital units to all hospitals nationally, with all hospitals in a state being the most common. Data sources range from small-scale surveys to national databases. The American Hospital Association Annual Survey is the most frequently used data source, but there are limitations with its nurse staffing measures. Arguably, the multiplicity of measures and differences in sampling and data sources are due, in part, to data availability. The limitations noted by other researchers and by this review indicate that staffing measures need improvements in conceptualization, content, scope, and availability.

Discussion – Recommendations are made for improvements to research and administrative practice and to data.

The healthcare system is undergoing rapid change as medical centers are confronted with constricted reimbursements for healthcare services while adapting to growth in medical knowledge, major technological advances in medical practice, and a changing regulatory environment. Academic medical centers thought themselves immune to the forces that shape most service enterprises but are forced to compete based on customer service and the efficiency, quality, and safety of medical care, while continuing to compete in the academic world. These challenges are not unique to academic medicine, but these institutions are, perhaps, least suited to the leadership challenges posed by this environment. Certain attributes of these centers raise barriers to successful adaptation to the changing healthcare environment. The need for systemic change in academic medicine requires commitment to programs that create change agents willing to assume leadership roles and to guide institutional evolution. In academic medicine, traditional one-on-one relationships between mentors and trainees do not provide the breadth of guidance needed in the complex environment of research, medical practice, and teaching. A structured system of “matrix mentorship” and structured evaluation will advance institutional values, provide leaders with an essential set of skills and values consistent with institutional goals, and provide competitive advantage for medical centers in academic healthcare.

Change in ownership among U.S. community hospitals has been frequent and, not surprisingly, remains an important issue for both researchers and public policy makers. In the past, investor-owned hospitals were long suspected of pursuing financial over other goals, culminating in several reviews that found few differences between for-profit and nonprofit forms (Gray, 1986; Sloan, 2000; Sloan, Picone, Taylor, & Chou, 2001). Nevertheless, continuing to the present day, several states prohibit investor-ownership of community hospitals. Conversions to investor-ownership are only one of six types of ownership change, however, with relatively less attention paid to the other types (e.g., for-profit to nonprofit, public to nonprofit). This study has two parts. We first review the literature on the various types of ownership conversion among community hospitals. This review includes the rate at which conversions occur over time, the relative frequency in conversions between specific ownership categories and the observed effects of conversion on hospital operations (e.g., strategic direction and decision-making processes) and performance (e.g., access, quality, and cost). Overall, we find that the impact of ownership conversion on the different measures is mixed, with slightly greater evidence for positive effects on hospital efficiency. As one explanation for these findings, we suggest that the impact of ownership conversion on hospital performance may be mediated by changes in the hospital's strategic content and process. Such a hypothesis has not been proposed or examined in the literature. To address this gap, we next study the role of strategic reorientation following hospital conversion in a field study. We conceptualize ownership conversion within a strategic adaptation framework, and then analyze the changes in strategy content and process across sixteen hospitals that have undergone ownership conversions from nonprofit to for-profit, public to for-profit, public to nonprofit, and for-profit to nonprofit. The field study findings delineate the strategic paths and processes implemented by new owners post-conversion. We find remarkable similarity in the content of strategies undertaken but differences in the process of strategic decision making associated with different types of ownership changes. We also find three main performance effects: hospitals change ownership for financial reasons, experience increases in revenues and capital investment post-conversion, and pursue labor force reductions post-conversion. Membership in a multi-hospital system, however, may be a major determinant of both strategy content and decision-making process that is confounded with ownership change. That is, ownership conversion may mask the impact of system membership on a hospital's strategic actions. These findings may explain the pattern of performance effects observed in the literature on ownership conversions.

Publication date
Book series
Advances in Health Care Management
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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