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Applying Conflict Resolution Skills In Health Care PART V : Use Objective Criteria

From the Disputing Blog of Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly Hayes.

One month ago, we started our health care conflict resolution series (see Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV) focusing on the Roger Fisher, William Ury Getting to YES principled negotiation method involving:

1. Separating the people from the problem.
2. Focusing on interests, not positions.
3. Generating a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.
4. Insisting that the result be based on some objective standard.

Our final post in this series focuses on “using objective criteria.” In almost any negotiation, no matter how many options are generated to “split the pie,” there is still going to be a conflict of interests.

As seen in our previous posts, the physician wants to continue his vacation and the nurse on the unit wants him to sign his verbal orders per hospital policy, the radiology director wants to decrease patient complaints and the technician wants to be heard so he can be part of the solution, the physician wants to sell his practice for a high price and the hospital wants to purchase it for a low price, the ED manager wants housekeeping to help with the cleaning and housekeeping wants to work within its budgeted number of staff.

In each situation, there are objective criteria that can be used to decrease the likelihood that the negotiation will become just a contest of wills and the ongoing relationship can be saved. Objective standards allow both parties to commit to reaching a solution based on principle, not pressure.

In our examples, objective criteria could be hospital policy, regulatory standards, industry standards, standards used by local hospitals or physician groups or budgetary constraints. As the parties begin the process of identifying objective criteria, they can:

1. Jointly search for reasonable criteria.
2. Be open to the most appropriate standards and how they can be applied.
3. Never yield to pressure from the other party, but defer to objective standards.

Pressure can take many forms: bribes, threats, manipulative appeals to trust or a simple refusal to back down. The principled response in each of these situations is the same: invite the other party to state their reasoning, suggest objective criteria that may apply and finally, refuse to budge except on the basis of objective criteria.

This is the final post in our series on using the principled negotiation method in health care conflict. Look for future posts on Disputing on utilizing proven conflict resolution techniques specifically in health care.

We invite your comments on this post and any suggestions for upcoming posts.


Holly Hayes

Holly Hayes Bovio received a Masters in Health Administration (MHA) from Duke University and her undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University. She holds a certificate in mediation from Texas State.  Holly brings a strong hospital operations background to healthcare mediations including a focus on clinical quality.  Holly managed her own consulting… MORE >

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