Anthony L. Suchman, MD, MA, FACP is a practicing physician, organizational consultant and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
After earning his BA (psychology) and MD degrees at Cornell University, Tony completed a residency in Internal Medicine and fellowships in General Internal Medicine (clinical epidemiology and health services research) and Behavioral and Psychosocial Medicine (mind/body interactions and medical interviewing), all at the University of Rochester. He subsequently earned an MA degree in Organizational Change, studying with Ralph Stacey at the University of Hertfordshire’s Complexity and Management Centre.
As a health services researcher on the facultyof the University of Rochester, Tony studied patient-clinician relationships, medical decision-making, physician satisfaction, and the spiritual dimensions of medical care. Through his teaching and writing (more than 90 articles and book chapters and the book “Partnerships in Healthcare: Transforming Relational Process”) he has become a leading proponent of a partnership-based clinical approach known as Relationship-Centered Care.
After 15 years of academic pursuits, he became interested in healthcare organizations, particularly how administrative processes and the behavior of leaders affect staff members, patients and processes of care. To explore the potential of integrated healthcare systems to engage patients as active partners and to provide coordinated, effective and humane care, he led the formation of the Highland Physicians Organization and was its first Executive Director. He also helped to establish the Strong Health Managed Care Organization and was its first CEO and Chief Medical Officer.
Tony’s current work focuses on organizational change and how people can work together more effectively across all levels of healthcare. He works with clinicians, administrators, patient advocates and board members in health care organizations worldwide to advance the practice of Relationship-Centered Administration, the organizational behavior and culture needed backstage to support staff members in providing Relationship-Centered Care to patients and their families. He has pioneered applications of the Relational Coordination Survey -- a research tool that measures how teams coordinate complex interdependent tasks -- in improving team performance and work environments.
With Seattle-based consultant Diane Rawlins, Tony teaches a 10 month course, Leading Organizations to Health, that prepares organizational leaders and consultants for the challenging work of leading change.
His most recent book, “Leading Change in Healthcare: Transforming organizations using complexity, positive psychology and Relationship-centered Care,” co-authored with David Sluyter and Penny Williamson, was published in 2011 by Radcliffe Publishing of London and New York.
"I’ve been learning that the biggest barrier to managing interdependence—and therefore to high performance—is our lack of understanding of each other’s work and of the impact we have on each other. As a result, we are constantly making each other’s work harder, in big ways and small, resulting in waste, error and frustration."
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Human relationships and healthcare reform
Earlier, Tony argued that when healthcare reform focuses on technology, it ignores an essential element in the quest to raise quality and safety, lower cost and the improve the experience of being a patient.
"We can achieve improvement in all three areas, all at the same time. Technical solutions like electronic records, new payment mechanisms or new financial incentives can play helpful supporting roles. But they are not enough.There’s a more essential ingredient that’s hidden in plain sight: the quality of human relationships. Patients, family members and healthcare workers of all types need to work together in new and better ways."
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Touchy feely? Get over it!
Anyone who still dismisses communication and relationship issues as “touchy-feely” is out of touch with current scientific evidence. They’re probably getting suboptimal team performance, too. The research behind it all can start in unexpected places.
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Connect better or underperform
Behind the scenes of healthcare reform, hospitals and health systems are preparing for new financial incentives. Those new rules will require a higher level of performance and care coordination than ever before.
That means a whole new level of collaboration between the professionals that serve patients in modern healthcare. To make care processes seamless, efficient and error-free all of those busy professionals–doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, health educators, medical technicians, schedulers—will have to work with much greater mindfulness of how their work relates to everyone else’s.
Click here to see the rest of Tony's blog "Teams from diverse disciplines: Connect better or underperform."