Negotiating at Telluride

The main focus of the Telluride Patient Summer Safety Camp is to enhance the ability of doctors and nurses to bring about lasting change in the health care system to create safer and higher quality care.  A large portion of the curriculum is centered on the issue of improved communications in clinical settings.  Several years ago, organizer Dave Mayer asked me to present a module on negotiation, and I have done so at each session since then. Obviously, in the short time allocated, I can’t offer a full course on the theory and practice of negotiation, but we are able to cover some key topics and give the students a chance to practice them.  Here are some of the comments they posted later about the experience:

Our second session focused on negotiation skills and applying
negotiation to clinical practice. This exercise was so fun! It required
problem solving, critical thinking, planning, reflection, teamwork and
open-mindedness to reach the best possible outcome of the deal. These
are the same skills required by all members of the healthcare team to
achieve good patient outcomes. Patient Safety is about harnessing the
creativity of the human members of the healthcare team to come up with
solutions for the patients in their care.

Throughout medical school, I have enjoyed and actively
participated in counseling patients about lifestyle changes, medication
compliance, preventative care and other difficult issues. By
implementing strategies of assessing readiness for change and
instituting small changes, I had done a fairly good job in engaging
patients to instill positive changes in their lives. Today,  I realized
was that what I had been doing was negotiating with my patients.
Negotiations are not easy, and I certainly fall short when negotiations
involve finances, as I am less skilled in navigating this world than I
am in the medical field. But I realized that these are vital skills that
can be translated clinically.

Paul Levy taught us today that we need to
get past the positions and think about the underlying interests. This
presents an interesting and effectual way for us to negotiate with our
patients and to create value for them. We must always remember that
every patient has a unique motivation and the only way to uncover these
motivations and use them for the benefit of the patient is to get to
know them as individuals and not just as “patients.” I have a long way
to go with my skills as an effective negotiator, but I am grateful to
have realized what an important skill this truly is and will continue to
practice until I get it right.

Clarifying and understanding what was behind respective positions, trying to
resolve both sides of the coin simultaneously where our and their
interests became interlocked, we were able to work in a much more
positive environment where differences did not drive us apart but rather
served as a key source of value in negotiation.