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mediation and conflict mediation
by Kenneth Cloke
Unmanaged conflicts are costly in time, money, quality of care, and morale.
According to an American Management Association survey, over 25% of a manager's time is devoted to resolving disputes. Conflicts in the health care industry occur regularly between providers and patients, staff and family members, co-professionals, labor and management, physicians and administrators, claimants and carriers.

Unresolved conflicts can lead to staff shortages, strikes, financial losses, increased malpractice costs, and the potentially devastating impact of litigation.

The pressures of competing markets, rising costs, increasing financial losses, staff cuts, and decreasing reimbursements have brought tremendous changes to the health care industry. In periods of such rapid change, conflicts escalate. Letting these conflicts continue unresolved can have profound consequences, including lower-quality patient care, reduced morale, frequent litigation, and hospital closures.

Skyrocketing costs in the health industry have reached such epic proportions that there is hardly a problem in the health care field that is not directly traceable to them. A significant source of increasing expenditure is the conflict created by litigation, inadequate personnel management, low staff morale, adversarial labor-management relations, and internal staff/administration disputes. In an effort to reduce costs, health care managers are increasingly looking at innovative ways of containing the high cost of conflict.

The most promising of these innovations is mediation and its most recent spin-off, "conflict resolution systems design". The first is a highly effective process for resolving or avoiding litigation and workplace disputes, while the second is an effort to combine investigation, analysis, consultation, training, organizational design, and a broad range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques, including mediation, into a systems approach for reducing conflict. The goal of both programs is to enable hospitals, HMO's, nursing homes and other health care facilities to:

  • Prevent conflicts before they occur;
  • Reduce the risk and cost of escalation;
  • Discuss settlement before costs and attorneys fees have accumulated
  • Provide a forum for final resolution outside the courts;
  • Create (inexpensive) internal mechanisms to resolve conflict;
  • Pinpoint and resolve the underlying reasons which created the problem.

The core of the prescription is mediation.

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