Healthcare Innovation Can’t Just Be A Catchword. It Has To Be Imbedded In Your Hospital’s Culture.

Kathy-SilardAt Stamford Hospital, innovation is not just a word—it truly is a culture change.

With all the challenges of healthcare reform today, what we’re really trying to imbed in the leadership culture is a culture of innovation. Therefore, we have made it our intention to train our entire staff on creativity, nimbleness, and the ability to adjust quickly to whatever healthcare changes might arise, at any time.

The key to hospital innovation and culture change: employee engagement

Employee engagement is something we are actively encouraging here at the hospital, among our rank and file as well as our hospital leadership.

We realize that a number of our leaders have not been trained or feel comfortable in the zone of innovation because they’re used to the traditional corporate approach: create a strategy, establish goals, accomplish measurable results. This is a very prescriptive process, as opposed to thinking out of the box about the best ways to provide exceptional medical care, reduce costs, improve our efficiencies and really delight our patients—make them feel “wowed” about their overall hospital experience.

We are currently in the process of building a brand-new hospital, and as we go through the design and workflow changes that will occur with our new facility, one of the questions we are asking ourselves is: Will this delight our patients, will it make them feel that we have embraced them in a very significant way?”

Embracing innovation in a hospital’s philosophy of care

Rather than merely treating innovation as a catchy slogan, we are focusing on how to make it the responsibility of everyone in the organization so they feel empowered to bring ideas forward, both at the leadership level and at the bedside. Understandably, the challenges of making this come alive are the fear of taking a risk, and not feeling comfortable going out on a limb with a new idea that may be controversial.

As a result, we are working closely with our entire hospital staff to make sure they have the competencies to be able to bring their ideas forward in a meaningful way and see them through. We’re also being very intentional to build trust in the organization. We are finding that the more we do this, everyone feels more comfortable in surfacing new, innovative ideas.

How to effectively encourage innovative healthcare ideas

To uncover as many fresh, new ideas as possible, we’re undertaking several approaches.

We’re engaging our hospital staff, our patients and their families in some of the workflow we have designed for the new hospital. We have formed an internal group called OCEG (Organizational and Clinical Effectiveness Group), made up of masters-prepared individuals who have Lean Six Sigma training. And we’re assembling in-house work groups with individuals from every level of our healthcare organization—all the stakeholders in the process.

So whether the process is admitting a patient to the emergency department, preparing a patient for surgery, or moving supplies throughout the organization, we are engaging staff at every level of the touchpoints for those processes. We’re asking all of them, “If you wanted to make this a perfect process that would be efficient, timely, ‘wow’ the customer and enhance the overall patient experience in a meaningful way, how would you redesign it?” And we’ve gotten some really fabulous ideas.

The best ideas have come from people’s experiences of the hospital

Some wonderful ideas that were brought forward had to do with the daily transporting of linen, supplies and food from the existing hospital into the new hospital once it’s open.

The staff came up with lots of smart solutions about staging, timing, and how to make sure we move medical supplies before moving patients through the system. They recognized that once patients start moving about for tests, treatments, admission and discharge, they don’t want to negotiate around, or have to look at activities that should be “off stage” processes.

Another terrific idea, generated by patients, focused on how we process hospital patients the morning of surgery. All patients are now admitted the morning they’re going to have surgery, and there’s a lot to do to get them ready for the operating room.

We engaged surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, as well as receptionists and registrars, on what would be the most efficient way to get a patient ready for a surgical procedure, while also minimizing anxiety and waiting—in other words, how to make the whole surgery experience better for the patient.

What we learned is that patients don’t want to change out of their street clothes too soon; it creates anxiety. Plus, if they’re with a loved one, they want to be able to stay with that person as long as possible, rather than have the person relegated to a waiting area while they are getting processed for the procedure.

To really have meaning, the values have to be part of your hospital culture

At Stamford Hospital, our values are embedded in our culture: teamwork, accountability, integrity, compassion, respect. Now we’re adding innovation as a competency.

More and more, it’s becoming part of everything we do, so that everyone is always thinking, “Where’s the next new opportunity? How can we better serve our community and how do we design our processes to meet their needs?”

We’re piloting some of these processes and getting feedback from staff and patients so that we can refine them. Then we will measure patient satisfaction and employee engagement, pre- and post-implementation. That way, we will be able to determine if we had an impact.

Stamford Hospital has now become a touchstone for hospital innovation

Over the past year, we’ve had a lot of inquiries around our healthcare facilities, our design, our environment of care, and some of the programs we have put into place. Several healthcare institutions have asked to come visit and look around. That’s very satisfying. We’re happy for them to come because I think that will help the entire healthcare industry grow and develop improved and new services over time.

The information contained in this blog represents the personal views of the contributor, and is not intended to reflect the opinions or position of any other contributor or organization.