With all the regulatory and reimbursement changes occurring in our industry at an ever-increasing rate, one thing is for certain: Your organization is not unique.
When speaking to organizations, I often hear things like, “Well, we don’t have the resources that the university hospital has” from community hospitals and then the university hospitals will say things like, “We aren’t as nimble as those community hospitals.” It’s frustrating and ultimately self-defeating. It creates a semi-plausible excuse that permits low performance, and it must be stopped.
I see it in everything from patient experience, core measures, throughput, and profitability. “We are unique,” “Our patients are sicker,” “Our payer mix is bad,” “We have more psych patients,” “We have more beds,” and the list goes on and on.
The reality is that all hospitals are facing the same issues at the same time and those that are top performing do not allow themselves to take this mindset. Simply put, none of our organizations is unique.
Imagine if we took that same mentality when it came to treating patients. If clinicians second-guessed every cardiac rhythm that came across a monitor, think of the conversations between cardiologists. “Maybe ventricular fibrillation is good for this patient. I mean it’s not like he looks like the last guy who had it.” It is an absurd example that makes my point.
Hospitals can argue about the metrics and the systems in place for a millennium, doctors can debate the efficacy of the data points and whether things are “good measure” and that is healthy. However, the reality is just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you are allowed to not do it or succumb to the idea that it is an impossible goal based solely on the fact that “your hospital is different.”
The metrics in healthcare are to create as level a playing field as there can be while trying to ensure high-quality care at reasonable or decreasing costs. Is it perfect? No, it is not, but it’s a start and part of the calling of being in medicine.
Clinicians don’t come to work expecting to provide bad care. In all my experience, I have never met a clinician that had that motive. The excuses come when compared to similar organizations and not performing well. The excuses come from everywhere rather than focusing on the core issue of poor performance.
Top-performing entities move through the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief faster and focus on the acceptance. Once that happens and the organization gets past its uniqueness, true organizational change can begin.
When dealing with an issue that causes your organization to lament how different it is to the standard, try these techniques. Allow the leaders an unadulterated complain fest. It’s a period of time not to last more than a day where complaining and feeling sorry for yourself is encouraged, get it all out on the table. It’s unfair, they don’t like us, and so on. Get all the negativity out in one moment of time. Grieving is natural and needs to happen. People in organizations need to feel like they are being heard and empathized with.
Next, require all the leaders to come up with short action plans that will move the organization forward. It does not have to be a total change in how you do business, but it starts the momentum going in the correct direction. This is not easy, and requires a substantial amount of effort. It shifts the energy in a positive direction and is the first essential step toward making a positive difference. Finally, reward and recognize people and departments making the gains, and the ones that are putting forth a strong effort.
The data is never perfect. There will always be concerns about percentiles, and comparative measures for everything we do in healthcare. Accepting it and focusing on the care each patient receives every time is the single most powerful curative tool an organization has in its armory. Doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons will always be correct, regardless of what the metric is.
About the author: Patrick Pianezza, MHA, has worked with the Studer Group and Johns Hopkins Hospital. In his most recent role, Pianezza’s work drove organizational performance in Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. to an all-time hospital best in the 90th percentile. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.