Sometimes, feeling “special” is a bad thing. Being special can be used as an excuse for not doing things that are generally accepted as ways to improve patient safety: Our patients are sicker. We work under more pressure. We can’t site-mark the kind of surgery we do. We don’t have time for double identifiers, barcoding, etc. No doubt, aspects of some medical environments require adjusting processes, even safety processes, but sometimes these are poor excuses for working around things that would make medical care safer and more reliable.
Another way to be “special” is by being ahead of the curve, early adopters, and visionaries. I sometimes indulge in thinking that certain individuals and organizations working in healthcare today are special in this way for their focus on honesty, equality, and transparency. Shared decision-making, participatory medicine, patient-centeredness — all of these efforts strive for a new way of working together that I think is really special about the current r/evolution in healthcare. If only the rest of the world were working toward those same goals, think of the advancements we could make.
It turns out I just don’t get out enough.
In early June, I found myself at a user group conference of Pegasystems, or “Pega,” a technology company that provides business-process and customer-relationship management (BPM, CRM) — to many industries, including healthcare. At PegaWORLD, I was delighted to discover that healthcare is part of a larger movement toward what Pega calls “customer centricity.” Beyond customer or patient centricity, other themes at PegaWORLD mirrored concepts—workplace safety, satisfaction, customer satisfaction — that I heard discussed recently at events sponsored by NPSF, MITSS, IHI, and others. I intend to track these themes through multiple industries as time and attention will allow. I’ll be disappointed if I find everyone is simply latching onto easy buzzwords, but I believe something deeper may be at work here; some common human impulse to make the world a better place in which to live and work, but we’ll see.
In the meantime, keynotes from PegaWORLD are available online. I found two of particular interest:
Alan Trefler is founder and CEO of Pegasystems. In his opening keynote, he says that Pegs’s strategy “is to make it so that we can provide not technology but outcomes for our clients by empowering the business and IT aspects of their firms to work together like never before.” He’s talking without reference to industry sectors in a way that allows application into many settings. Try replacing the word “customer” with ”patient” in the following excerpt from the keynote:
“High-definition” customer service is not optional going forward in everything we do. It’s all about empowering the business to be smarter about dealing with the customers so the customers just love them. …We need to create a customer-oriented architecture that comes down from the customer and enables you to really understand the dimensions of the customer’s business. Bring together the key intents and process not from the perspective of your silos and your technology but to bring it together from the perspective of the customer.
Fred Reichheld, creator of the Net Promoter® system of management, gave the next keynote at PegaWORLD. NetPromoter is an approach to measuring and understanding customer loyalty, in which customers are seen as Promoters, Passives, or Detractors. NetPromoter recognizes the value of loyal, satisfied employees as well, and is used by companies such as GE, Zappos, Apple, and American Express. Again, the parallels to themes in healthcare—patient-centeredness, joy & meaning in work, workplace safety—were striking, although comparing retailers of consumer products to providers of healthcare is jarring and only goes so far (there are ways that healthcare is special). That said, I found Reichheld’s approach to familiar themes refreshing. Some nuggets from his keynote include:
Meaningful service to others; that’s what makes life worth living.
The solution that most of us need is a team-based solution. The team is a unit of change. You don’t change a culture one employee at a time, you change it one team and team leader at a time.
And last, PegaWORLD provided a new way of thinking about the similarities between healthcare and aviation. In patient safety, we often talk about learning from aviation’s experience with safety improvement. Pega provides a larger view of aviation as a high-complexity business with similarities to healthcare. Pegasystems’ software runs the “collaborative decision making” process that coordinates air and ground traffic at Heathrow Airport. A promotional video shown at PegaWORLD helps me think about systems that have huge impacts on our lives in healthcare and other industries.
Many things — especially people — working in healthcare are special, but sometimes it’s helpful to realize that our challenges and problems are shared by others working in very different industries. I benefited from this opportunity to get out a bit to see what others are doing.