“We should stay here. Tonight.”

I thought it would be hard to compete with the great experiences of day one in Telluride, but day two did not disappoint. We spent a couple hours today focusing on “Strategic Negotiations” with Paul Levy. We participated in a few exercises, and despite my nerves going into it, I was pleasantly surprised with my performance. (Although I did have to pay $10 on a bid for a $10 bill that I actually didn’t even win.)

Levy discussed many interesting topics, including tactics for how to make the best deal. I quickly realized that although negotiations seem very businesslike on the outside, the true heart of the matter comes down to reading the vibes of the other party and trying to gauge where they stand. To put it in Harvard Business School/Levy terms, you need to figure out what your BATNA is, or your Best Alternative To a Negotiation Agreement. Basically, as a buyer that means determining how much the deal means to you/how much you would be willing to spend and what you would do if no deal was reached. The tricky part for me comes when you are trying to determine the other party’s BATNA as well, and then try to degrade it. For example, you may point out faults in the product or suppress your interest to the seller so they are more likely to bring their price down. What you don’t want to do is jump the gun and show your hand too early, like Dr. Ray Stantz, Ghostbuster.

While I love movies and love when scenes like that become perfect examples of real life lessons, at this point I was thinking, “I will keep this in mind when I’m buying my next house, but what does it have to do with patient safety?” Then the really interesting discussion began and it started to fall so smoothly into place. You make negotiations every day, whether you realize it or not. When dealing with patient care, every person on the healthcare team may have their own BATNA, or what they feel is most important at that time, based on their specialty, role, and assessment of the patient. Especially in healthcare, both sides can be important aspects that effect the patient’s outcome and neither side can be ignored. You must work together as a team because “solving their problem becomes part of your problem.” Effective and strategic negotiations are vital to developing a plan that will provide the patient with the best possible care. There is no room for a winner and loser in the healthcare team when discussing patient care, otherwise the real loser will only be the patient.