The healthcare industry is always in flux. Whether it’s new medicine being tested, new legislation being passed, or health-technology companies entering the industry, the only reliable element of the healthcare industry is change—constant change. The hospitals and health systems that survive these changes are the ones that have a leadership team of great communicators who are ready to adapt to it.
Maureen Bisognano, who is retiring from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), where she worked for 20 years. She recently offered hospital leaders five lessons that Marty Stempniak reiterates in his article, “Hospital Leaders Must Adapt to New Roles; Rewrite Rules for Improvement, Says Retiring IHI Chief.” These five lessons are designed to help leaders change their own habits, in order to prepare for bigger changes down the road.
1. Change how you improve your hospital. Often times the same people are the ones involved in any healthcare change discussions. While there’s nothing wrong with this, these voices don’t represent everyone. In order for change to work, people at all levels (from patients, to employees, to board members) should be heard. Holding an open forum for patients, talking with employees of various departments, and administering surveys to patients and staff are good ways of receiving feedback and taking them into consideration when changes are being made.
2. Change the way you listen to patients. “Begin actually listening to the voice of the patient and wondering ‘What matters to you?’ rather than just ‘What’s the matter?’” writes Stempniak. In order to give patients the best possible care, hospital staff need to learn who the patient is as a whole, and not just pay attention to the parts of them that are unwell. By placing patients back at the forefront of care, this will restore a patient’s trust in your health system.
3. Change how you “teach, learn, and see.” Bisognano believed that in order for good caretakers and providers to become great, they need to be willing to try new things and assume new roles. “Clinicians need to move from being the writers of prescriptions and diagnoses to being guides who shepherd patients through the system,” Bisognano said in her final IHI forum. In other words, physicians need to see the importance of the many parts of healthcare, not just treatment. Encouraging providers to be flexible with how they view patient care will also help them be flexible in times of change.
4. Change how our health systems care about patients. Stempniak and Bisognano encourage leaders and providers to work together to determine how they can stay ahead of a patient’s needs. In other words, they need to figure out how to make their systems more proactive in meeting patient needs. This might mean posting weekly YouTube videos about different health issues facing the community, or a blog with featured posts from physicians and specialists. Having resources at a patient’s fingertips and communicating with them in an ongoing, and easily accessible, manner will make it easier for them to trust your organization when changes occur.
5. Change the way we see leadership. Many workplace issues require more than a simple fix. While patients are at the forefront of healthcare, a hospital’s employees aren’t far behind. Heathcare leaders need to recognize when something in their organization isn’t working. Then they need to seek feedback from others about the situation, devise the best apparent solution, and then revise if necessary. Seeing a problem as a process, and not a quick fix, is important for finding the right solution.
Being able to adjust your leadership style to better position you and your health system for change is important. What have you done to prepare your hospital for change? Leave your thoughts in the comments!