My Top 4 Mistakes in Medical Negotiation

1. Not understanding that all interactions are negotiations.

This comes from my lack of understanding of the definition of a negotiation. The broad definition includes the following:


- A way to improve outcomes where people are involved

- When we influence thoughts, emotions, perceptions or beliefs

Not understanding this definition heavily impacts the way I previously negotiated.

Not understanding that all interactions are negotiations results in not appreciating the value of preparation before an interaction. Having the awareness that I will eventually step into a negotiation in the future, or knowing that my next interaction with a colleague or patient is a negotiation. An important interaction was one that I had with my sister. By understanding that I needed to listen to her interests, issues and options I could prepare a list of questions and the way in which I were to ask them. This simple act of mental preparation greatly influenced the outcome of the interaction.

To translate this in a patient setting, to prepare questions and responses for a diabetes patient is crucial to helping the patient understand the need to stay healthy. To do this, I will prepare how I will firstly listen to the patient, and secondly, what are the patient’s needs and interests in wanting to be healthier.

2. Having the misconception that a compromise is a win-win outcome

I previously believed that compromise was always a good outcome. The notion that additional value can be produced would be placed at a lower priority if a compromise was clearly the easier and most achievable outcome. This obviously loses potential value for both parties. A new mindset to come up with multiple options and a better option are always available is one that will change the way I negotiate in the future. The ‘Pareto Frontier’ was a good framework to understand this concept which I will use in coming up with options.

The patient interaction in regards to compromise can be about the number of days that patient needs to exercise. Now I understand that if a patient needs to exercise 5 times a week, and we have compromised and come down to 3 times a week – this is not necessarily a good outcome. Instead, what I should focus on is how to create a scenario which 5 times a week of exercise is a small amount in comparison to the value he is getting. To great better value for the patient is the key. Therefore, emphasising the benefits and risks of exercise and not exercising can be one of these strategies.




3. Communication and polluting words

I previously considered myself a good communicator. However, after reading a few communication books it has become evident of how much pollution I inadvertently bring to a negotiation. Being increasingly aware of the amount of times I have interrupted, assumed that I was right, fail to acknowledge merit in the other person’s argument (Hron, 2013) among other polluting acts. Since this realisation, I believe I leave an interaction with less disagreement and more potential for sustainable relationship and future negotiations.

4. Not completely appreciating the complexity of a negotiation

I previously had a substantially less awareness of the elements that impact the negotiation. The number of stakeholders and their interests, in particular, was an eye-opening concept. Such themes are amplified in cross-cultural interactions (which happen all the time in Australia). To add more complexity, the interactions between different parties (between stakeholders) are difficult to fully appreciate. The impact of adding even one extra party is incredibly large, even if they are part of your team. Their interests, issues and processes can be different and if these are not made aware prior to the negotiation, it can be very detrimental to the outcome. This is particularly important in multidisciplinary team interactions. Value in the outcomes can be diminished if we do not understand the complexity of the interests of each party involved.





FELLS, R. 2013. Effective negotiation, US, Cambridge University Press.

SEBENIUS, J. K. 2001. Six habits of merely effective negotiators. Harvard Business Review, 79(4), 87-95.

WATKINS, M. (1999). “Negotiating in a complex world”. Negotiation Journal, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 229-244.