Running a 14-Facility Health Clinic is not all
Black and White - It’s a Four-Color Process

by Patti Hill

The health care industry faces complex issues. At its essence, health care professionals provide care to people who have health care needs that range from trivial to life threatening and often in a setting of extreme urgency. The environment is high-stress and requires orchestrated teamwork to provide optimal patient care while meeting expectations of high service levels.

Supporting the activities that occur at the front desk, in X-ray, the laboratory, and in the patient exam rooms is the clinic’s management team. They include nurses, administrators, doctors and other professionals whose mandate is to see that patients are cared for while the clinic maximizes efficiency, complies with regulatory guidelines, and makes critical decisions affecting the lives of those patients as well as the health of the organization’s bottom line.

If the communications between professionals becomes strained, there is little time for an on-the-spot analysis and remediation. In this environment, a pre-existing approach is necessary for executing every detail - from taking the patient’s vital signs to checking for drug allergies to improving communication between co-workers.

Austin Regional Clinic, one of central Texas’ largest multi-specialty health care groups, is setting standards for developing communication strategies that proactively address the high-stress dynamics of providing healthcare. Austin Regional Clinic began as a professional association in 1980. With a focus on primary care - the specialties of family practice, pediatrics, and general internal medicine – they emphasize the importance of long-term doctor/patient relationships and the coordination of care.

Austin Regional Clinic takes its commitment to patients very seriously. As an organization, it is deeply connected to the community and has sought to operate on the highest professional level possible. ARC executives are continually searching for effective tools to help build the framework for driving creativity, continuous improvement, and customer value, while maintaining the confidence of the patients they serve and people they work with.

With innovation and commitment to quality in mind, Mary Grist Goering, Associate Vice President of Human Resources and an 18-year veteran of Austin Regional Clinic, decided to challenge her organization by laying out a visionary road map. Her objective was to confront the communication challenges inherent in being a fourteen unit multi-site clinic spread across 50 square miles of the Austin metropolitan area. Mary, who bears the ultimate responsibility for fostering a work environment of trust, pride, and camaraderie among more than a thousand employees, focused on finding a communication strategy that could be implemented across all aspects of the organization. Her goal was to find practical and structured tools that would help increase performance and add value to the organization.

Central in her mind was the organization’s ability to train and support busy and constantly harried professionals to improve their interpersonal communications to better serve the needs of their patients and the group's continued success. Her search led to Insights Discovery System.

Insights Learning and Development was founded in 1993 in Dundee Scotland by father and son Andy and Andi Lothian, two gentlemen who had a passion for making a difference. Based squarely on the works of Carl Jung, Insights’ mission is to offer organizations tools to transform individuals, teams, and enterprises. The program seeks to transform the culture of organizations by helping employees understand themselves better, and thus, interact more effectively with those around them.

The heart of the Insights work is the Insights Discovery System, a psychometric diagnostic tool that offers a common language of ‘color energy’ designations to characterize personal thought and communication styles. These energies, represented in the language of colors, predictably create an impact on both the personal and organizational level. The program offers self-understanding through the Insights Discovery Personal Profile, a comprehensive report which accurately details personal style, decision making, key strengths and weaknesses, communication, and management data.

The Insights system uses four fundamental color energies to represent characteristics, behavioral style, and needs. All energies have equal value. Every individual possesses and uses all four energies in different combinations and in varying intensities. The combinations of these energies form the basis of the power of the Insights System.

Austin Regional Clinic began by working to understand the impact of personal perception. ARC sought to determine how each individual’s view of other individuals, everyday occurrences, and world events is colored by internal beliefs. Additionally, they incorporated Insights’ symbolic-personality barometer depicting each individual’s style and preferences. Personal preferences and motivation-orientation is categorized as one, or a combination of, the following colors:

Fiery red - competitive, demanding, strong-willed, purposeful, determined;

Sunshine yellow – social, demonstrative, dynamic, enthusiastic, persuasive;

Earth green – caring, encouraging, patient, sharing, relaxed;

Cool blue – cautious, deliberate, precise, questioning, and formal.

What Austin Regional Clinic discovered was the dynamics of individuals within its departments and teams. By utilizing psychologically based analysis, individuals were able to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Awareness of their interpretative and motivational make-up created a road map for communications. The information was then used to understand how much adaptation was needed to connect with other departments or team members with diametric opposite preferences. They were able to compliment and utilize each other’s strengths in the team-environment. Another critical discovery was recognizing how natural affinities occurred when a closer proximity of two individuals’ preferences appeared. These findings enabled individuals to see what it was they felt attracted to in others, thus providing a window into their perception of themselves.

The Insights model allowed physician and staff leaders at Austin Regional Clinic to identify their preferred, more comfortable, and less comfortable patterns of preference. What ensued were focus and clarity in terms of communications, as well as a framework for capitalizing on diversity in the organization.

Based on this process, ARC worked to refine effective strategies for recurring interpersonal communications challenges, and then to create solutions for transforming behavior models.

The results have been a more efficient team model in many departments. They now have the ability to help individuals recognize their respective core strengths and this has increased the group’s overall sense of camaraderie. The shared experience of participation in the program was crucial to this outcome.

Austin Regional Clinic’s success in utilizing the program was the result of its ability to inspire leaders in the organization to understand the decision-making process, and thus facilitate interpersonal communications by enabling every employee to become an empowered, active participant. By understanding the make-up of themselves, and the patterns that other “types” tend to operate under, ARC was able to enhance the team’s interactivity by increasing respect for diversity as a function of personality.

“Healthcare professionals face so many complex dynamics during the course of each work day - the patients’ needs, rapidly changing technology, fiscal constraints and the need for teamwork,” stated Goering. “Our objective as an organization is to create systematic initiatives for addressing each of our mission-critical mandates. Many, many organizations have difficulty achieving a culture of effectiveness through teamwork. We wanted to look at our organization's make-up on every level to further our success through the dynamic of teamwork. Insights has significantly contributed to this objective.”

Patti Hill is founder and president of Austin, Texas-based BlabberMouth Marketing and Public Relations. BlabberMouth moves quickly to create and execute full-service and project-based public relations and marketing initiatives that result in increased visibility and message clarity to accomplish your organization’s goals. BlabberMouth’s marketing and public relations offerings can be incorporated into any organization’s in-house marketing team or stand alone as a virtual team. For more information visit or call 512.528.0201.

"get the WORD out"

Many more articles in The HR Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Patti Hill. All rights reserved.

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