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Sounding the Alarm: Time to Invest in Healing Relationships in Health Care

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

We know 3rd Conversation is needed, and we know it makes an impact: In this article, published in STAT, we break down why it's time to invest in relationships between clinicians and administrators in health care, what we learned during the process of piloting our Ignite experience, and our hopes for the future.

Time to Invest in Healing Relationships in Health Care

Read the excerpts below or view the full article:

On why we decided to create Ignite:

It’s been a wild ride for them [administrators] as well as for clinicians, from trying to keep organizations afloat during the height of the pandemic during which dramatic drops in revenue turned balance sheets red, through the Great Resignation of 2021, and now during fears of an impending recession. Is it any wonder that the number of hospital CEOs who resigned between 2020 and 2021 has nearly doubled?

Just before the pandemic emerged in late 2019, our organization, X4 Health, conducted research to better understand the mindset of C-suite leaders and the state of relationships between them and clinicians. This research directly informed one of our social impact initiatives, 3rd Conversation, a national, grant-funded program designed to reinvigorate relationships in health care.

On what Ignite is:

We used human-centered design methods to develop and test a program to improve relationships between C-suite leaders and clinicians. Our hypothesis was that a professionally facilitated forum could be designed to help both groups recognize how much they have in common, create bidirectional empathy and communication, and identify changes that would help them collectively at their institutions.

This program was piloted in 2021 by Finger Lakes Community Health, a rural, federally qualified health center in New York, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The program involved clinicians and administrators sharing personal stories, connecting as human beings — not just in their professional roles — processing the impact of Covid-19, and imagining a better future together.

On what we found:

Although these observations are preliminary, they affirm that clinicians and administrators share a commitment to making a difference and show that carving out intentional time and space to share challenges, frustrations, and hopes is valuable.

We believe that providing opportunities for administrators and clinicians to be explicit about what they need and what they can offer each other, grounded in a foundation of bidirectional empathy, will play a key role in catalyzing larger institutional change efforts, such as patient safety or quality improvement. We also believe these opportunities are one useful strategy for improving staff and clinician well-being and improving staff retention at a time of significant shortages.

On what we hope for the future:

We believe it is time to apply this capacity to prioritize humanity across the health care system. Investing in programs that elevate the importance of the relationships in health care — between clinicians, administrators, patients, and others — can ease the human suffering in the workforce, address root causes of staffing shortages, and ultimately lead to better health and well-being for all.

Contact us for more information about bringing the Ignite experience to your organization



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