Core Competency: Healthcare – Emotional Intelligence

Foundations of Performance: Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare – and what you can learn from the Video Game Industry

In our Foundations of Performance Series we are highlighting key performance drivers and competencies across industries.  Hiring for these characteristics will increase employee performance, fit, and retention.

Consumer brands aggressively seek to understand what drives loyalty and referrals. In healthcare, the goal is similar: To increase market share by earning the loyalty and referrals of patients. The goal is achieved by consistently delivering a “sticky” patient experience. We can learn a lot about how this goal is achieved by taking a look at the video game industry. Game companies thrive or fail on their ability to create player experiences that retain existing players and gain new ones. While playing a game on your phone or game system probably seems wildly different than going to an urgent care or surgery center, from a human needs perspective they are identical.

Patient experiences that support core psychological needs foster greater loyalty, or a willingness to seek out that experience again.  These needs are:

1. Autonomy. Drive to control choices and act on them.

2. Competence. Desire to be feel effective in your current environment.

3. Affiliation. Need for trusting and meaningful relationships with others.

In video game research users spent more time, and experienced greater psychological benefits (i.e., mood, self-esteem), with games that better fulfilled these needs.  Massively Multi-Player Online (MMO) games, for example, better met these core needs in users than others like a traditional Nintendo game.  In MMO, players are able to interact with others and build relationships, recognized for their progress and skill, and provided with more opportunities to chart one’s path and make decisions.

Healthcare_83174122_PhysiciansWhat does this have to do with healthcare?  You can focus your patient experience on meeting these needs.  Provide patient-driven care (autonomy).  Help patients feel in control of their own health and capable of using your practice as a resource (competence).  Use frequent and consistent communication and empathy to build trust (affiliation).  These needs cut across healthcare segments.   In fact, research supports the link between patient perceptions of autonomy, competence, and affiliation and outcomes like health behavior change and patient engagement (see our Resources below).   Further, when these needs are met people are more intrinsically motivated; that is, enthusiastic about repeating the experience, even in the absence of external incentives (e.g., discounts, loyalty programs). By creating an experience that delivers autonomy, competence, and affiliation you can gain market share – even if your costs are not the lowest, or your location not the most convenient.

Meeting Patient Needs.    Your team is the primary force in meeting these needs.  Your own personal commitment to meeting patient needs for autonomy, competence, and affiliation can only go so far without a team of capable employees able to understand and react to each patient’s unique situation and preferences. Emotional intelligence (EQ) – the ability to accurately read the needs and emotions of others as well as yourself, and then use your emotions and behaviors to influence others – is a key component of an employee’s ability to individualize care. Hiring people with emotional intelligence ensures your team has the capacity to understand and fulfill patient needs. Emotionally intelligent employees navigate conflict and satisfy dissatisfied patients with greater ease. Because of this, emotional intelligence acts as a buffer against burnout, a challenging obstacle to effective patient care and employee turnover.

Hiring for EQ.  Assessing emotional intelligence from a job application, resume, or reference check is extremely difficult, especially when many of your candidates have similar education and experience. Evidence-based pre-employment assessments effectively provide the information you need to confidently hire candidates with the ability to quickly respond and fulfill patient needs. Corvirtus offers short, five to ten minute assessments that screen for self-management skills and the ability to understand and serve others. Which are the exact abilities necessary for delivering patient-driven care that builds loyalty and engagement. Assessment results can be married with structured interviews, which allows the interviewer to understand candidate capabilities and how the candidate can perform on the job.

What’s next?  Pre-employment assessments can measure emotional intelligence and the qualities you need for improving care while also reducing costs and risk.  To help you evaluate assessment providers we’ve put together a guide and easy-to-reference checklist for selecting the best assessment provider.

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