Use these tips to speak language of business'
Use these tips to speak language of business'
Be a translator between the two worlds'
As an occupational health professional, you need to bridge communication gaps between two very different worlds: medicine and business.
Always remember you are working in a business environment, says Robert R. Orford, MD, CM, MS, MPH, president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and a consultant with the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ.
"You need to understand how management functions and how your programs will impact the bottom line of the company, in a much more direct way than you would in the hospital setting," says Orford.
Just as medical jargon is often poorly understood by non-clinicians, management and finance fields have their own terminology. You need to be conversant in both, sources say. For example, in a given day, you might need to communicate with an injured worker's treating physician, a worker's manager about what type of work they can do, and your CEO who is making decisions about health care plans for the company. To hold your own in all these conversations, you need to be a "translator between the two worlds" of business and medicine, says Orford. "If you are engaged in one-to-one interactions with executives, you better have some skills in the business field," he says. "Otherwise they probably will not understand you very well, and vice versa."
To improve the way you communicate with business leaders, do the following:
Get to know the CEO, human resources director, and finance director.
Make these individuals aware of the basic statistics of the company's occupational health and safety performance, says Orford. These include the accident rate, short term and long term disability rate, and absenteeism rate.
"Present your views on how the company's performance in these areas can be improved," says Orford. "Also, ask for their ideas on this."
Be familiar with health statistics on your employed population.
When talking about wellness programs, be well-versed in rates of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes, Orford says. To generate this data for your employee population, Orford recommends using ACOEM's Health and Productivity Management Toolkit. (Toolkits are $189 for non-members, and $139 for ACOEM members. To access this resource, go to hpm.acoem.org. Click on "HPM Toolkit." Annual subscriptions to the HPM)
Cite respected organizations to back up what you are saying.
You might have only one shot at presenting your point to upper management, says Peggy Branan, RN, an occupational health nurse with Jefferson (LA) Parish Government. "If you provide a credible source to back up what you are presenting, it will add more weight to your position," she says.
For example, when talking about heart health-related issues, use statistics "as cited by the American Heart Association," for diabetic-related issues, "as cited by the American Diabetes Association," and for cancer-related issues, "as cited by the American Cancer Society."
Explain unfamiliar terms.
You might need to define occupational health terms such as "presenteeism" or "case management." "If you are using medical terminology or explaining concepts which are unfamiliar to them, you should explain these," says Orford. "But in my experience, there is no reason to oversimplify. Executives are intelligent and quick learners."
Use information or data from your organization rather than providing numbers from a general population.
Cathy Baase, MD, global director of health services at The Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, MI, says, "For example, instead of saying that tobacco costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars per year, it is better to provide a per-employee cost, and then a company-specific projected cost."
For more information on communicating with business leaders, contact:
Cathy Baase, MD, Global Director of Health Services, The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, MI. Phone: (989) 636-6542. E-mail: [email protected].
Peggy Branan, RN, Occupational Health Office, Jefferson (LA) Parish Government. Phone: (504) 736-6558.
Robert R. Orford, MD, CM, MS, MPH, Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. E-mail: [email protected].As an occupational health professional, you need to bridge communication gaps between two very different worlds: medicine and business.
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