5 Essentials for Creating Culture

The new buzzword for start-ups in healthcare is without a doubt the word culture. A quick look at Harvard Business Review finds 7,153 articles that center around culture in the subject of managing organizations alone. There’s all kinds of culture-talk happening. There’s:

• corporate culture
• data-driven culture
• culture of originality
• emotional culture
• continuous improvement culture

When a word is presented at every event or tossed back easily at lunch with a taco and a mojito, it’s easy for it to lose its intended meaning. However, culture is more than a buzzword. It’s actually a crucial component to customer satisfaction and specifically in the healthcare space, to people’s outcomes and quality of life. Culture is far more than a box that needs to be checked off when you’re building, or redesigning, a company, it is the key to how effectively you’ll not only reach your target audience but in the end how loyal they’ll be to you. And, considering it takes far less to retain a patient than to attract new ones wouldn’t this be a great goal to have?

1. What do people mean when they say culture?

As per businessdictionary.com culture is…”social heritage of a group… It is a pattern of responses discovered, developed, or invented during the group’s history of handling problems which arise from interactions among its members…”

As per Wikipedia, “culture is a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning…”

Key in these definitions is that culture is intimately tied to ones’ audience. There is no way to build, refine or transmit culture without looking to the perception of ones’ members. You can not build an effective culture in an ivory tower. There is most definitely a back and forth. Culture works only when built (or tweaked) to address previous experiences (social learnings) with members.

And, a successful culture only comes into being if the following four things are taken into account.

2. Culture isn’t created in a Vacuum.

Here’s the thing, you can’t just start listing your vision and values in an office meeting and call that your culture. And you certainly can’t duplicate another company’s culture and call it your own. Culture is created over time and you need one crucial element that ignites the entire process: Your consumers. Your target audience.

Who are your consumers and what do they need, want and expect from you? Before any corporate culture is built, you must know your audience. Culture isn’t created in a vacuum.

Business, in general, is no longer a function of push it out and have people accept what you’re selling (that may have worked with past generations but that is no longer true now that fresh generations are at the forefront in our society) now it’s truly a matter of pull from them: what do they need, what will they respond to, how do you reach them, how do you keep them? Until you know these things, set your culture aside, it may be your ‘ideal’ but that doesn’t mean anything unless it is also the ideal of your audience.

3. Talk to Your Intended Target.

If you are in the Health Care space, consumer research is absolutely necessary to determine the following answers:

What information do your patients need prior to choosing you as a healthcare partner? What information do they need before stepping foot into your practice? What do they expect once they arrive? What does a patient require as they leave, and beyond, your care?

Once you hear from them, build processes that meet said needs. Consequently, patient experience and satisfaction will correlate positively. If you develop a mission that doesn’t align with the needs of the intended recipients, it will fall on deaf ears. You must find out the following:

• Expectations
• Needs
• Wants
• Pain points

From the answers to these questions, build your mission, processes and internal culture accordingly to hit each and every one of them head on. If you do this successfully not only will your practice flourish but the loyalty to your practice will be second to none.

4. Build Your Culture from the Outside In.

Once you know who your target demographic is and what their needs are, you can hire based on who can accomplish the tasks needed to meet the clients’ needs. Only after this happens people, practices, processes, and place can be determined.

If you choose to hire before your culture is fully formulated and put it into action it is likely the training you’ll need to do with your employees, so that they can better convey the culture will take away from any benefit you thought you had in filling your work force early.

Take the time first to know who is needed to best fit your culture, who will transmit authentically all that is intended, and then hire accordingly. Once your internal culture matches that of what is expected from your external audience you have the recipe for success, efficiencies, positive outcomes and loyalty.

5. Patient Driven Culture vs. Doctor Driven Culture

Right now the health care space is seeing the beginning of a paradigm shift. Patient-driven culture is growing because the doctor-driven culture has shown itself to be lacking. In the past patients were apt to take a doctor fully at their word, never question a diagnosis or a set protocol for recovery. Now, not only have the times changed but the generations with it and they demand more; they demand a voice, they demand a partnership, they demand a seat at the proverbial table of their own healthcare.

As we are in the midst of this shift we’re finding not all practices are getting the memo. Until such time that we are all speaking the same language practices will find patients will look elsewhere for care. Now care is literally only a click away and the newly empowered generations are quick to go that route or to use easily accessibly walk-in-clinics and they don’t feel history with a practitioner is as important as convenience. Once healthcare providers and healthcare recipients align the efficacies of our system will greatly improve. The current burdens, such as wait time, costs, and even (re)occurrences of diagnoses will decrease.

A patient-driven culture creates the empowered patient which encourages ownership of their own health. Healthcare is no longer a ‘silver bullet’ directed by doctor but, better yet, decided upon, analyzed by and bought into by the patient. Study after study proves that the more the patient is empowered the more committed they’ll be to their own care and the more committed they are will lead to better outcomes and lower healthcare costs and a higher quality of life.

Here’s to health. Here’s to happiness.