Most leaders within the healthcare industry acknowledge that sweeping changes in care delivery are coming, and many hospitals and health systems have already begun to prepare for them. Reimbursement shifts away from fee-for-service and toward value-based payments are, perhaps more than any other factor, leading the charge toward a transformed delivery system.

For most hospitals and health systems, the shift has been subtle: on Oct. 1, 2012, CMS began penalizing hospitals for excessive readmissions and poor performance on certain clinical and patient satisfaction measures; however, these adjustments only impact a small percentage of total Medicare payments. Other programs that move the needle toward value-based payments, such as bundled payments and accountable care organizations, are elective. Despite the fact that these payment initiatives have yet to completely shift payments to reward value, most in the industry believe they are harbingers for how healthcare is delivered, and paid for, in the future.

Hospitals and health systems across the country are implementing a number of initiatives to prepare for the change, but perhaps one of the most important steps they should take is ensuring their employees’ values align with the values of coordinated, patient-centric care, says Jill Schwieters, Executive Vice President of Cielo, a healthcare recruitment firm, and former Senior Vice President of human resources at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Glendale, Wisconsin. For current employees, change management programs and a cultural shift may be in order. For new employees – at all levels – hospitals have a unique opportunity to ensure candidates will fit within a patient-centric culture before they join the organization.

So what traits should an organization look for in candidates? Ms. Schwieters says there are four key traits that are particularly important for employees to possess in a patient-centric and value-based culture.

1. Critical Thinking Skills

“[Healthcare] needs people who can think on their feet and solve unique challenges,” she says.

2. Resourcefulness

Related to critical thinking skills, employees should be able to solve problems. This skill goes beyond thinking of a solution to actually carrying it out. “More and more, [hospitals] need employees that are not just doing what they’re told but are individual thinkers who can take care to the next level,” she says.

While it’s critical that employees are able to follow instructions and care plans, they need to have the autonomy to adapt if an issue comes up that requires decisions that aren’t anticipated by the care plan. “Employees should be given autonomy within the parameters of the best practices for care,” she adds.

3. Collaborative

Employees must also be willing to work closely with colleagues across the organization to solve problems. “When the industry is complex and barriers are all over, you need to make sure you collaborate on care that is centered around the patient,” says Ms. Schwieters.

4. Technologically Savvy

With the advent of electronic medical records, clinical decision support, health information exchange and more, employees must be technologically savvy. “Healthcare workers should be technologically competent,” she says. If any employee is challenged by technology, she recommends pairing him or her with a younger employee who is more comfortable with technological demands.

Assessing These Skills

So how do healthcare employers determine if candidates possess these four skills? Behavior-based interviewing and thorough reference checks are key, says Ms. Schwieters. “Build behavior-based questions around the desired traits; this enables you to learn how they have displayed these behaviors in the past,” she says. For reference checks, “make sure you are asking the right questions,” she adds.