Question & Answer
Maintaining Control During an Acquisition
Q: Megan is the laboratory manager at Cross Pointe Hospital. She has a very well-run department that continually meets the needs of physicians and other customers. The turnaround time on stat testing is excellent, results are always available at the point of care and the staff is always very professional. The department has even received high marks with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and other state agencies. In addition, Megan has prided herself on the department’s efficiency and cost-saving efforts.
Recently, however, Megan’s facility was acquired by Horizon Regional Medical Center. This facility is in need of a lab director and better processes within the department. In general, the lab department at Horizon Regional needs a cultural change of attitude on the part of its employees.
Unfortunately, the poorly run organization was the acquirer and it remains in charge. Just recently, the new parent company has asked Megan and her staff to operate differently. They were even asked to not comply with certain regulations.
Slowly, Megan has watched the efficiency in her department deteriorate. Turnaround time and the release of data are increasing, while productivity decreases. Morale has plummeted, and Megan feels like it’s impossible to fight the good fight against Horizon Regional.
What, if anything, can Megan do to regain control of her department? How can she instill the great team attitude that everyone had before the acquisition?
A: My recommendation to Megan would be to prepare for a significant education campaign. While some difficulty in merging different cultures is inevitable and may be anticipated, the negative effects now becoming manifest cannot be allowed to persist. Megan should check on and catalog the perceptions of the physician customers to determine what changes have they noticed. She needs to seek out and meet with a high-level sponsor, an administrator of the acquiring medical center who may in fact have no idea of the negative impact the acquisition has created on the delivery of laboratory services.
For her to regain some control, Megan must present and support her arguments with data including how turnaround time has suffered, why it’s important, what physician surveys reveal and how productivity has decreased. Administration also needs to understand that the organization ignores lab regulations at its peril. While she’s at it, Megan should poll her listener. What are its needs of the new administration? What are its goals and expectations for lab services under the new arrangement?
The department’s past record of high achievement should carry a lot of weight with the accreditation body, and the need for a director may land Megan an opportunity to make a difference.
—Timothy McClung, MS, CHE
A: Megan needs to “take control” of this lab once again! It’s apparent that the department has been led off track by the recent changes incurred during the acquisition. Here are a few steps that may identify problems and provide answers to those problems more easily:
1. Call a mandatory “brainstorming” meeting for all department staff. Ask the staff to think of the top five to 10 problems or obstacles currently facing their department. It may be a good idea for Megan to start the discussion by writing down her greatest concerns.
2. Once the problems are listed, then begin a discussion on ways to rectify these situations. Together, as a group, develop a plan to overcome the identified obstacles.
3. Don’t stop there! The most critical part of this plan is still to come. Team leaders will need to be chosen for each of the problems/solutions discussed earlier in the meeting. They should be chosen based on their previous experience in areas related to the concern, have a “get things done” attitude and be highly regarded by the staff.
4. Create a timeline to follow and continue to have meetings. This will build confidence in the staff and allow them to see the accomplishments that they have made.
5. Most importantly, Megan will have to stand up for what is legal and ethical in her department. If her concerns of non-regulatory behavior are not accepted by her immediate supervisors, she must climb the authority ladder until someone listens.
—Melissa Burkhart, MT(ASCP)
A: Megan has been presented with a challenging situation for which there are no easy answers. Her best option is to take a multi-faceted approach. She should:
1. inform administration of accreditation requirements,
2. review expectations and strategic goals with new owners,
3. perform internal customer surveys including the medical staff to determine their expectations,
4. solicit input from her pathologists,
5. outline specific reasons for the problems or changes with suggested solutions,
6. using the data collected, develop strategic goals such as regulatory issues, quality and measurements, service and financial considerations,
7. communicate strategic goals and solicit support from her superiors and
8. communicate the goals to her staff and develop an implementation team.
—Marylen M. Osler, MT(ASCP)MS
THIS MONTH’S Q&A PANEL
* Timothy McClung is a senior operations analyst and is the former administrative director of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Norwalk (CT) Hospital.
* Melissa Burkhart is laboratory manager at Bourbon Community Hospital, Paris, KY.
* Marylen M. Osler is laboratory manager at Methodist Medical Center, Dallas.