A&M psychologist visits UT, speaks on organizational learning in health care system

Quanit Ali

Justin Benzer, an A&M psychologist whose research is focused on implementing changes in the health care system, came to UT on Monday to talk to students and professors about how his research aligns with the core goals of Dell Medical School.

Benzer’s research revolves around how to take abstract and general organizational psychology theories and apply them to the health care system.

“There’s a lot of reasons I think Dell should be interested in organizational learning,” Benzer said. “It’s important to understand the context. My research overall examines how organizations learn and change.”

Benzer said the differences in how people respond to feedback impact the quality of primary care and allow for high variations from one hospital to another. 

“They’ve got these dashboards available to clinicians and it says how you’re doing on screening and they set a goal and feed information into the system,” Benzer said.

Benzer underscored the need for supportive learning environments and the shift in the health care system toward team-structured environments. He directly related this to a common example found in health care. 

“The interesting organizational part of this [disarray of structure] is that anti-psychotics are prescribed by psychiatrists but metabolic syndrome is managed by primary care,” Benzer said.

Benzer, who reached his conclusions through qualitative and quantitative studies, said sharing the workload and continually looking for improvements are paramount to a hospital’s success.

“People work better when they have a shared conceptualization of the work,” Benzer said. “[High-performing hospitals] have said ‘We met the standards, but were going to look to improve.’” 

Senior administration members at Dell Medical School have also seen the need to expand. Dell hopes to have more than 300 residents learning across Austin hospitals by 2020. The need to hire more faculty and organize them efficiently will be a topic of interest in the coming years, officials said.

“We are a rapidly growing organization,” said Clay Johnston, dean of Dell Medical School. “We are constantly restructuring and re-organizing and hiring new people every year.” 

Stephen Strakowski, chair of psychiatry at Dell Medical School, said the need for redefining organizational structure is a priority for the developing medical school.

“We’re in the process of trying to develop a truly unique organization that changes how we deliver healthcare,” Strakowski said. “I’m looking for people who can come in and think about our current structure and apply that [research on organizational structure].”