Training puts team leaders on same page with project

Effective communication emphasized

With eight design teams set to participate in a wide-ranging revenue cycle initiative at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Medical Center in Little Rock, the next order of business was to ensure that all of the players were starting at the same baseline, says Holly Hiryak, RN, CHAM, director of hospital admissions/patient access and one of the two project leaders.

"We felt like in order for the teams to function fairly consistently, they all needed to be operating at the same level," she adds. "We wanted them to use the same form of communication, and the same logic in [determining] the role of the team leader."

With that end in mind, Hiryak says, she and fellow project leader Jeri Garland from the information technology (IT) department, along with human resources trainer Melissa Johnston developed a leadership training program. It was presented in a day-long session to the team leaders — one for each of seven design teams, and three for the design team for the scheduling component, the largest part of the project.

"[The training] was well-received," she adds. "It gave team leaders a better idea of why they were in the role, what was expected, the level of commitment. They also began forming a bond through knowing who else was 'in it with them,' so to speak."

The team leaders will be part of a project workflow group that will help facilitate the project, Hiryak notes. "They will meet — probably once a week once we're up and going — to address any interface or cross-function issues that might arise. [The training] will put the tools in their hands to help them do that."

It was important, she says, that design team leaders came to the project with a strong understanding of the tool to be implemented, or the process involved. "The leader for the Interface Link Engine team doesn't understand the product [a tool that allows users to scan documents at the point of access], but she understands the processes that will be impacted by the product.

"I can educate her on how the tool works," she adds, "and once she understands that, she will understand how it will help in various areas."

Other design teams, Hiryak explains, cover tools and functions regarding pre-registration/registration; billing; scheduling; front-end verification of patient demographic and credit data; upfront checking of medical necessity; and real-time verification of insurance coverage status.

Team dynamics addressed

The leadership training session began with general comments about the ELVIS Project (the acronym is for eligibility, verification, insurance, and scheduling) and continued with information about team dynamics, Hiryak says.

For example, creating a successful team experience, she notes, requires that members do the following.

  • Establish team norms
  • Understand the goals
  • Understand the roles
  • Recognize and manage the forces
  • Have a problem-solving process

To understand team goals, participants looked at these questions:

  • What are our goals?
  • What are our milestones?
  • Are the goals clearly stated or written?
  • What is the action plan for achieving the goals?
  • What resources do we have to achieve the goals?
  • How are we going to celebrate along the way?

Effective communication was covered in the leadership training session, Hiryak says, including the importance of creating a clear, well-organized message by beginning and ending with a summary statement.

The message should deal with facts arranged in an appropriate manner, omit unnecessary details, and not contain too much information, participants were told.

They also received instruction on "listening to communicate," she explains, which is difficult because people often reject or overlook information that conflicts with preconceived notions, and because our minds are capable of processing information quicker than a person can speak.

Managing expectations

One of the key reasons team leaders need to learn to communicate appropriately, Hiryak points out, is so they can "manage expectations" regarding the project and "not give a false sense of what can or can't be done."

There is a tendency with a project of such scope and magnitude to convey the idea that it will be the "end all and be all," she says. "While this is going to solve a lot of our problems, help with patient flow, and ultimately improve patient satisfaction, it is not the one and only. There will be process and people changes [that need to take place].

"So managing the expectations of the end users — physicians or whoever else they might be — is important," Hiryak adds.

While team leaders will compare notes with their counterparts on various facets of the ELVIS Project at the weekly project workflow group meetings, participants will use SharePoint, a Microsoft document management tool, to provide ongoing updates, she says.

"This is where we are placing all of the documents related to this project," Hiryak adds. "When we are communicating with one another, this is the one place we can tell people to look to find information about the project. It is the place where we will list outstanding and completed tasks, and an events calendar, as we launch different parts of the project."

The events calendar also will include the dates when key people will be away from work, she notes, to avoid the scheduling of a meeting with the vendor at those times.

Using SharePoint, Hiryak explains, a member of the scheduling team, for example, would be able to upload and view documents concerning that part of the project. But if that individual just wanted to see what the ILE team was working on, he or she would have view-only rights, she says. "He could look at minutes, work plans, who is on the team, as well as templates, project governance, and the charter for each team."

"If a team is dealing with a certain issue," Hiryak adds, "maybe they'll want to take a cruise on SharePoint to see if other teams are having some of the same concerns."

(Editor's note: Hospital Access Management will publish periodic reports on the progress of UAMS Medical Center's ELVIS Project. The first article appeared in the March issue. Holly Hiryak can be reached at HiryakHollyM@uams.edu.)