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Articles by Donald E. L. Johnson

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Integrity is critical issue for all institutions

By Donald E. L. Johnson

Health Care Strategic Management, July. 2002, Vol. 20, No. 7

Copyright 2002 by The Business Word Inc.

Americans are disenchanted with the integrity of our major institutions and our professionals, and hospitals are looking for ways to reassure their employees, patients, payers and medical staffs that they are dealing with institutions of integrity.

Arthur Andersen, Enron, Martha Stewart, the FBI, the CIA, Merrill Lynch and health insurers are all seen as this year’s cheaters, liars and untrustworthy institutions.

And teaching hospitals’ integrity is being questioned because they work medical residents more than 100 hours per week, putting patients at risk.

The simple fact is that people of power in large organizations of all types are being viewed with uncommon suspicion and cynicism. You can call today’s sour environment the product of power envy or wealth envy and ignore it. Or you can see it as a management problem and marketing challenge that must be tackled.

President Bush last month called on business leaders to speak out in favor of integrity.

Hospital executives and medical staff executives must not only speak out in favor of integrity, but also continue to manage and act with integrity.

Talking about integrity is uncomfortable for many people. It can be so preachy and, well, false.

But this is a time when employees and other publics need to be reminded that their employers can be trusted and that their patients are depending on the integrity of their physicians, nurses and other providers.

Physicians often talk about the doctor and patient relationship.

In their talks with employees, medical staffs and other publics, executives of hospitals and integrated delivery networks need to promise that their institutions are determined to advance the integrity of the health care delivery system.

“We believe in treating our patients, employees, vendors and payers with integrity. And we want every employee to know that integrity is an important value. We try to hire employees with integrity, select honest vendors and treat all of our patients and payers with integrity and honesty.”

Don’t be afraid to note the crisis of confidence that the president and other political leaders are addressing. “I just want you to know that we know how this is affecting how you may be viewing our institution and our industry. And I want to reassure you that the hypocratic oath taken by new physicians doesn’t just apply to them. It applies to everyone in health care. We all want to create good jobs, deliver the best quality services and honor our commitments to our community and our patients.”

 

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