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How to Create a Five-Star Patient Experience
Patient experience is a commitment from which there is no turning back. The entire health care sector must find new ways of thinking about how care is delivered. Consumers, meanwhile, are increasingly relying on patient experience as a decisive factor in their health care decision making.
Health care organizations recognize patient experience as an increasingly important part of their mandate and are devoting more resources to it. More than 80% of health care organizations report that they already have patient experience programs in place, with many of these “well established,” while only 1% have not yet started with these efforts.
But the decision to launch a patient experience program is no guarantee of its success; fewer than one hospital in 12 receives a five-star rating from its own patients.
In order to be successful, patient experience programs must be planned and implemented properly, applying knowledge of what has real impact and what doesn’t.
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, about 3,500 hospitals participate in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) ranking, which uses a patient-assigned star rating to measure patient experience. Out of these hospitals, approximately 29% receive a one- or two-star rating, 34% receive three stars, and about 21% are awarded four stars, while only less than 8% receive five stars.
What is it that sets these high-performing, five-star organizations apart? Why are they so rare? In order to be successful, what issues must be prioritized? What practices deliver sustained results?
To help answer these questions, Siemens Healthineers and The Beryl Institute conducted a study of more than 1,100 patient experience professionals, including 294 from high-performing units as well as 175 patients and their family members, to identify the most important influence factors on patient experience. Participants in the study rated more than 35 different factors.
The results of high-performing units and patient organizations have been summarized in a scorecard that displays the most influential factors along the continuum of care. This scorecard can be used to gauge systemwide patient experience efforts as well as to identify gaps and potential improvement areas.
The factors have been mapped to the continuum of care, including the following areas:
– Engage patients and families
– Optimize diagnostic experience
– Deliver outcomes that matter to patients
An illustration of how an enhanced patient experience can help deliver better health outcomes can be found at the Baylor Clinic in Houston, Texas, a facility dedicated to patient-centered primary care and home to some of the leading breast health specialists in the U.S.
Emily Sedgwick, MD, served as chief quality officer for Baylor College of Medicine and recognized that one of the greatest barriers to women getting timely breast cancer screening was anxiety and fear associated with these tests. She and her team developed a five-step process to enhance the patient experience at Baylor:
1. Engage with patients and their families
2. Hone talent and ensure staff acceptance
3. Standardize protocols and optimize image interpretation
4. Enhance imaging referral
5. Implement patient-friendly technology
By deploying these five steps, Sedgwick and her team were able to create a comfortable and more relaxed environment and – perhaps even more important – put in place processes allowing them to perform mammography and biopsy and then deliver outcomes that matter to patients, all in one day. This package of same-day service not only delivers outcomes to patients more quickly, it also makes treatment available as early as the next day if signs of cancer or abnormal results are detected.
The results are clear:
• More accurate and timely diagnoses leading to better patient outcomes
• A demonstrably better patient experience
• Increased revenue, largely as a result of higher patient numbers
Providing a better patient experience is not a one-off project but rather an ongoing improvement cycle that must take into account organizational needs, staff, and environmental fluctuations.
Learn more about how you can improve the patient experience in your organization contact TPMG Global here!
Improving HCAHPS Scores and The Patient Experience
Gerald Taylor MBA
Managing Director, TPMG Global
Patient satisfaction is an important and commonly used indicator to measure the value of health care. Across the United States, shifts in health-care policy have tied hospital and physician compensation to patient experience measures that focus on patient engagement. As of late, understanding and improving the patient experience has become almost a burning platform for U.S. healthcare executives. The patient experience survey, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), serves as a remarkably effective guide for the success of doctors and hospitals.
Res Ipsa Loquitur – Facts About the Patient Satisfaction
According to McKinsey & Company, many health systems make large investments in initiatives to improve the patient experience but fail to achieve their desired objectives.
Here are some interesting facts about patient satisfaction:
- Performance on the HCAHPS survey can affect up to 33% of a physician’s reimbursement.
- 25% of value-based purchasing reimbursements are tied directly to HCAHPS scores.
- In fiscal year 2020, 55% of the approximately 2,800 participating hospitals received approximately $1.9 billion in CMS value-based purchasing program incentive payouts – roughly $1.3 million per hospital.
- Health system executives find that roughly 70 percent of their patient experience initiatives fail.
McKinsey also concludes that hospital in-depth data analysis and research can be better at pinpointing which factors most strongly influence patient satisfaction levels. Moreover, TPMG Global® research has discovered more than half of healthcare facilities across the United States find the most difficult barrier to improving HCAHPS scores is focusing on the right drivers of “Would Recommend Hospital.” And that is what this article is about.
In this piece we will discuss how to pinpoint the drivers that most strongly influence “Would Recommend Hospital,” and how to overcome common flaws which wreak havoc in patient experience initiatives.
Improving HCAHPS Scores and The Patient Experience
Many in the healthcare industry believe there are few financial rewards for improving and sustaining respectable HCAHPs scores. However, according to a study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions: Hospitals with excellent HCAHPS patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 realized an average net margin of 4.7%, as compared to just 1.8% for those with low ratings.
At TPMG Global, we believe improving patient satisfaction is not about making patients happy – par se’, but about improving the patient’s entire experience across the continuum of care. The patient experience encompasses not just the clinical aspects of care delivery, but also the administrative, operational, cultural and behavioral characteristics of the entire care delivery system. The object of improving the patient experience is to yield greater value by not only producing higher HCAHPS scores, but to also maximizing a facility’s reimbursements and sustaining meaningful improvements in real patient satisfaction.
To that end, we offer a simple 5 step method for improving the patient experience.
- Put the HCHAPS survey into the field
- Conduct the appropriate data analysis
- Pinpoint the drivers that most strongly influence “Willingness to Recommend Hospital”
- Conduct the appropriate qualitative analysis
- Implement a plan, do, check, act test of change
This article will provide you with two easy step-by step data analysis methods that will pinpoint those drivers that most strongly influence a patient’s willingness to recommend a hospital.
An HCAHPS Case Study – Hospitals in the Same System are Not Alike
A large hospital, part of an even larger system: HCAHPs Survey Analysis 2014 – 2018
Case Study Problem Statement: This healthcare facility is part of a larger healthcare system on the eastern cost of the United States. For more than 4 years they have not been able to improve their stagnant patient satisfaction scores. The head of the facility’s patient experience team instinctively knew the patient satisfaction driver report they received from their system’s central office was not focusing on the right factors. They needed a change.
Baseline Analysis: Since 2014, their HCHAPS “Willingness to Recommend” score has averaged 77.32 – ranking the facility between the 50th and 75th percentiles. Though their scores are better than both the state (69) and national (72) results, the baseline analysis covers a serious weakness. The facility’s scores fall below the national ratings almost 17% of the time and its performance misses the 90th percentile mark of 84 (their goal) 94% of the time.
Interpreting HCAHPS: Pinpointing the Determinants of Patient Satisfaction
To pinpoint the right drivers that most strongly influence willingness to recommend, there are 2 kinds of analysis you must perform. The first type establishes linear cause and effect relationships between the drivers of patient satisfaction and their willingness to recommend a hospital. The other proves dependencies between those drivers and the same outcome. Most importantly, the data analysis must be “statistically significant” to have the predictive power and confidence needed to ensure an initiative will generate a strong return on the time, hard work, and capital invested.
The Results: Drivers of Patient Satisfaction – Linear Relationships
|Drivers of Willingness to Recommend||Relative Strength|
|Governing Strength||R – Square: .74|
|Drs Explained Things Understandably||Impact -0.40|
|Treated w/ C&R by Drs||Impact 0.35|
|RNs Listened Carefully to You||Impact 0.50|
|Told What Medicine Was For||Impact 0.30|
|Treated w/ C&R by RNs||Impact 0.42|
|Received Phone Call at Home||Impact 0.14|
The table above identifies 6 statistically significant drivers of the patient experience that best determines Willingness to Recommend Hospital. The key performance indicators suggest the following:
- R-Square: the subset of characteristics, outlined here, are a 74% driver of patient satisfaction. Other variables (26%) may also drive Patient Satisfaction but may not be captured by the survey.
- P-Value: we can be 99.9999979% confident these are the appropriate drivers of patient satisfaction for this facility.
Critical to Satisfaction Characteristics
The model indicates, a one-point improvement in “Treated with Courtesy and Respect by Doctors” drives Willingness by 0.35 points; a one-point improvement in “RNs Listened Carefully” drives Willingness by 0.50 points etc… (Linear Relationships)
Drivers of Patient Satisfaction – Dependent Relationships
Now that we have determined the fundamental drivers of patient satisfaction, we move forward to discover the extent to which patient satisfaction is dependent upon them. Here, we evaluate the relationship between the attribute “Treated w/ C&R by RNs” and “Willingness to Recommend.” The approach tells us the extent to which Willingness to Recommend is dependent on Treated w/C&R by RNs.
The basic idea of the method is to compare the observed performance of the driver with its expected performance. If there is no dependent relationship between the potential driver and outcome, the actual frequencies at which willingness to recommend is observed will be close to their expected frequencies (in the norm).
All other things remaining equal – the analysis indicates that we can be 99.995% confident – patients punish Very Good performance but reward Excellent performance in this category. It appears performing very good in this category is not good enough. The hospital must be excellent to be rewarded with a willingness to recommend rating. For Very Good performance, patients are 59% less likely to “Definitely Recommend Hospital”. For Excellent Performance in this category, patients are 89% more likely to “Definitely Recommend Hospital”. Only 23% of patients give an excellent rating for this category!
At the end of the day, we can safely conclude Willingness to Recommend Hospital is not only strongly driven by Treated with Courtesy and Respect by RNs, but it is also dependent on the driver for improvement. In addition, the opportunity for improvement (OFI) is substantial! The charter for the patient experience initiative should include an objective and key result (OKR) for this driver, like: Improve the percentage of respondents for “Treated w/ C&R by RNs” with an excellent rating by 77% (predicted target date – here).
I trust this article has provided you with insight and approaches that can help you pinpoint those drivers that most strongly influence a patient’s willingness to recommend a hospital. If you are interested in learning more about using these methods, contact us at: TPMG Global® – Improving HCAHPS Scores and The Patient Experience
Gerald Taylor is the Managing Director at TPMG Global®
Making the case for Lean Six Sigma in the healthcare sector
Mon, Jun 07, 2021 Vijaya Sunder M
The Lean healthcare systems worldwide witnessed a significant evolution in the past two decades by transforming the processes and the behaviors within the healthcare firms. For example, Mayo Clinic in the USA implemented Lean in the early 2000s and achieved higher customer satisfaction among the cancer patients in their chemotherapy department.
Another such example is the National Health Service in the UK, where Lean deployment has improved hospital performance and delivered significant cost savings.
Even in developing economies such as India, Lean implementations have transformed both clinical and non-clinical processes among the hospitals. For example, in 2019, Fortis hospital, India’s second-largest hospital chain, declared that it cut costs by 20 per cent by embarking on Lean deployment.
In an interview with an executive director of the Apollo Hospitals Group, it was mentioned that they have been practicing Lean in their work processes to improve both efficiency and effectiveness.
While Lean implementation in the healthcare sector has provided some success, it had its share of drawbacks.
First, most of the Lean works in healthcare links to the traditional Toyota Production System and have not included the recent developments in Lean.
Second, implementing Lean in hospitals has been a daunting task in many countries, as Lean does not demand a data-driven approach.
Third, several studies emphasized that the leading cause for poor patient care in hospitals is the incorrect selection of Lean projects based on hospital management’s intuition.
Further, in many organizations, Lean has been perceived as an ad-hoc activity without considering its systemic implications. While the Lean literature endorsed several field-based tools like value stream mapping and visual management, it missed recognizing other important continuous improvement (CI) tools like process mapping, control charts, root-cause-analysis, etc.
Importantly, Lean does not address process variation related issues. Finally, the criticism that Lean lacks a project management framework to execute projects has been a concern among practitioners.
Alongside these, the healthcare sector’s inherent challenges like unevenness in healthcare operations, measurement system and quantification challenges, demarking healthcare as a market, defining patient as a customer, have been vague and, in fact, majorly unaddressed.
With the recent development of Lean Six Sigma, a hybrid method that combines the rapidness of Lean and Six Sigma’s robustness, most of these problems get addressed.
Our research and practice of applying Lean Six Sigma in various healthcare contexts, including out-patient departments, mobile hospitals, pharmacies, healthcare insurance, diagnostic labs, intensive care, and in-patient admits, have convincingly endorsed Lean Six Sigma’s fitness for providing high-quality and low-cost healthcare services.
While Lean Six Sigma was built on Six Sigma’s original Define-Measure-Analyse-Improve-Control (DMAIC), and Define-Measure-Analyse-Design-Verify (DMADV) roadmaps, it is a data-driven, process-oriented continuous improvement approach that focuses on identifying and eliminating process defects, variation, and non-value-adding time to improve healthcare service efficiency and effectiveness.
Simultaneously, it helps improve process flow, utilization, flexibility, and service capability towards delivering greater value to patients and other healthcare beneficiaries.
There is an increasing interest in Lean Six Sigma by healthcare practitioners. While it offers both process and data lenses to examine problems towards a resolution roadmap, practitioners endorse it to be easy to learn and effective when applied.
We had opportunities to apply Lean Six Sigma in Indian hospitals. For example, a multi-specialty hospital in India that we deployed Lean Six Sigma suffered from a low patient satisfaction rate of about 78 per cent in the cardiology department.
The turnaround time (an average of 315 minutes, with a standard deviation of 24 minutes) was reported as a major contributor to patient dissatisfaction and identified as an opportunity for process improvement by the department’s management. Data analysis revealed a poor process capability to deliver services within the set objective of 210 minutes.
By applying the Lean Six Sigma toolkit, we were able to identify the root causes of the problem. Lack of scheduling, incomplete patient information, lack of test result alerts, lack of clarity in patients about the hospital layout, workstation downtime, delays from other appointments, and demand fluctuations were a few of the root causes.
Lean Six Sigma tools like Pareto analysis, Control charts, Value Stream Maps, and data analytics were used as part of the project.
The integrated mobile alert system, standardising the lab data reporting, revamping the scheduling system, eliminating non-value adding activities and process bottlenecks, staff training, etc., were a few improvements executed in the cardiology department.
Consequently, the turnaround time was reduced to 240 minutes, with a standard deviation of 9 minutes. The Lean Six Sigma project delivered an annual cost saving of about INR 3.4 million, increasing patient satisfaction to 91 per cent.
Further, it contributed to learning, excitement in the participating stakeholders towards a cultural change. Customer centricity, process orientation, data-driven decision making were a few learnings highlighted by the participants.
In another Indian hospital, the accuracy of the Medical Records Department was improved from 89 per cent to 97 per cent using Lean Six Sigma. Another example was reducing the turnaround time in a mobile hospital that provides free medical services to ~3000 villages in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, using Lean Six Sigma’ss DMADV methodology.
In another assignment, we noted a significant reduction in medical insurance claims from 1.5 per cent to 0.8 per cent. Here, by improving the process sigma value from 3.66 to 4.52, the healthcare firm realised a cost avoidance benefit of about INR 38 million.
An overview of research literature on Lean Six Sigma indicates that ~20 per cent of publications on Lean Six Sigma in services sectors are specific to healthcare. This shows an increasing interest in Lean Six Sigma by healthcare practitioners.
While it offers both process and data lenses to examine problems towards a resolution roadmap, practitioners endorse it to be easy to learn and effective when applied.
Thus, it will be a worthy future direction for healthcare professionals like doctors, administrators, lab personnel, and other clinical and non-clinical technicians to learn and apply Lean Six Sigma for continuous improvement.
Alongside management learning, it sets an agenda for total personnel participation towards building a continuous improvement culture (beyond individual projects), a critical gap to bridge, and a worthy opportunity to pursue in the healthcare space.
With digital automation, robotics, and information and communication technologies being applied faster in healthcare institutions, it is important for them to embark on the Lean Six Sigma journeys. As a pre-requisite to technology deployment, Lean Six Sigma would help hospitals and other healthcare institutions streamline their processes and improve them as deserving candidates for digitisation.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, India. He is a Lean Facilitator and Six Sigma Master Black Belt practitioner, and an Affiliate Faculty with the Max Institute of Healthcare Management (MIHM) at ISB.
Improving Patient Satisfaction with Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare Learn how The Juran Institute used Lean Six Sigma to help a medical telemetry unit in a medium-sized hospital, increase their HCAHPS percent ratings.
A medical telemetry unit, in a medium-sized hospital, reported HCAHPS percent ratings below the competition for “Overall Unit Rating” and “Would You Recommend This Hospital.” The baseline scores of 9–10 responses on “Overall Unit Rating” were 56% and the percentage of “Definitely Yes” responses for “Would You Recommend This Hospital” was 61%.
The team defined the project goal to meet or exceed the highest percent ratings in the county for “Overall Unit Rating” and “Would you Recommend This Hospital” by:
- 0 – 20% improvement by November 2009
- 20 – 50% improvement by January 2010
- 50% improvement by March 2010
The team was composed of representatives from the Telemetry Unit, Physical and Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Food and Nutrition Services, Respiratory, Care Coordination, Environmental Services, Transportation, Materials Management, Organizational Development, and Center for Nursing Practice.
The project scope was unsecured patient accounts. The beginning boundary for the project was the time a patient arrived in the E.D. The ending boundary was when the patient was discharged from the E.D. and financial responsibility was secured.
The team proceeded to develop a SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer) on the “admission to discharge” patient process. This high-level process map is used to identify suppliers at the front end affecting the process, materials and inputs entering the process, materials and outputs exiting the process, and ultimately, customers impacted by the process.
Understanding the Needs of the Medical Telemetry Unit’s Audiences
The team conducted patient, family, and staff surveys and interviews to collect voice of the customer data on the patient’s experience. The team understood the importance of engaging the patient and family in the design of their care.
They acknowledged that it is not about the organization behind the services, rather it is about how the patient receives those services. In other words, it is all about the patients’ perception of their experience. The team took verbatim voice of the customer (VOC) data and translated it into themes and critical-to-quality requirements (CTQs). CTQs are defined as measureable customer needs and are considered by the team as solutions are designed and implemented.
Below are examples of the voice of the customer data from a patient’s perspective.
Several patients and family members commented that they have never been
asked before what is important to them and what the staff could do to provide the best experience. The team translated voice of the customer to key themes/issues and identified a critical to quality measure for affinity groups.
Understanding the Process
The team created a current state value stream map from the time the patient was admitted to the floor until discharge. Mapping proved to be challenging for the team due to the variation in care processes.
Understanding Non Value Added Work
The team analyzed the current state value stream map from the time the patient was admitted to the floor until discharge. The analysis helped the team identify non-value added work, bottlenecks, and issues impacting the patient experience.
Solutions were generated, prioritized and ranked by the Team. Five design teams were created: Patient Hospitality and Comfort, Discharge Preparation, Patient Education, Staff Education, and Noise Level. The project teams designed their solutions around key patient-centered design principles.
Patients vary widely regarding how much information they want and how much of a role they wish to play in making decisions. The Patient Discharge Team developed several robust strategies to encourage shared decision-making. With input from patients and families, the team created a patient communication board which serves two purposes: first, to provide information to the patient and family such as activity level and when the next pain medication is due, and second, to provide an opportunity for the patient to communicate with caregivers and physicians things that are important to them during their stay. It also helped to plan for discharge by recording the date and time of expected discharge. Patients and families are oriented to the board during the admission process (example board is shown below).
The team also designed patient discharge rounds every afternoon with the Care Coordinator, Unit Director, and Manager in order to identify patients for early discharge the next day. In addition, a discharge checklist was instituted.
Patient Education About Their Disease Process
The primary purpose of this education is to increase the patient’s understanding and responsibility for care. The Patient Education Team developed a Patient Guide on Congestive Heart Failure. The guide provides a roadmap for patients regarding what to expect each day during their hospital stay. The team also developed a list of questions for patients to ask upon admission and included them in the Patient Admission Guide.
Patient Engagement in the Design of Their Care
Patient and family needs were considered by the Patient Hospitality and Comfort Team. The team developed a tagline: “Going the extra mile to make our patient smile” and implemented the following solutions based on expressed needs:
- Waterless shampoo
- Hourly patient rounds to improve patient comfort and safety
- Scripting: addressing patients by name, sitting during conversations with patients and asking the patient upon leaving the room, “Is there anything else I can do for you before I leave? I have the time.” Also, telling the patient when you will return.
Staff Engagement in the Patient’s Care
The Staff Education Team developed a monthly newsletter to enhance communication amongst caregivers, management, and physicians. The newsletter discussed new clinical practices, changes to processes, educational offerings, and a story about a key contact. The staff also developed a Unit Performance Excellence Scorecard so that everyone understood what quality metrics were being monitored, how often, and the current status of performance. The language on the unit changed and staff began to link solutions to performance metrics.
Patient Centered Environment
The Noise Team was tasked to reduce the noise level on the unit and improve the cleanliness of the environment. The team implemented more frequent room checks, nursing and environmental manager morning rounds to identify areas that needed more personal attention, quiet hours from midnight to 5 AM, lowering ring tones on desk phones, and the use of Spectra Link® phones and OptiVox® to standardize patient handoffs.
Ensuring Long Term Solutions
The Control Phase provides the necessary methods and tools for an organization to hold the gains and continually improve the patient experience.
The team completed the necessary plans and transferred ownership of the plans to the Unit Director.
- Control plan: Provides roadmap of actions to hold the gains and continue improvement.
- Communications plan: Describes how and when information of process changes will be disseminated to staff and other key stakeholders throughout the organization.
- Training plan: Defines the training content, schedule, and outcomes for training staff on new process changes.
- New and revised policies and procedures: Documentation representing revised processes.
Perseverance and commitment by the team to meet on a monthly basis following two rapid improvement events resulted in their exceeding all project goals. The team is likely to see even greater results in the future as they continue to listen to the voice of the customer and implement new solutions.
HCAHPS scores for “Would You Recommend” have shown a steady increase since September of 2009, improving nearly 35% in 5 months. The Standard HCAHPS Overall Average scores have shown an increasing trend over six months, culminating in a high score of 93.8%.
Upward trends for each of the HCAHPS measures are evident as of February 2010. Each measure has an improved score when compared with the initially recorded scores in September 2009.
To learn more: TPMG Global® Online Leadership Academy Master Class Series Presents: “Improving HCAHPS Scores and The Patient Experience”
Cleveland Clinic’s Patient Satisfaction Strategy: A Millennial-Friendly Experience Overhaul
If you want to improve the patient experience — and your patient satisfaction and HCAHPS scores — here’s a good place to start: Reconsider how your hospital or practice thinks about time. And get to work swapping a patient-centered approach to time for your provider-centered viewpoint.
To see this in action, try a quick phone call to Cleveland Clinic. Here’s precisely what you’ll hear, after just a bit of voice jail navigation:
“Thank you for calling Cleveland Clinic. Would you like to be seen today?”
And they mean it. They do “about a million” same-day appointments a year, according to James Merlino, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Experience Officer (CXO).
Now, doing a good job in healthcare does take time. Scans take time to read properly. Cultures take time to grow. Thoughtful diagnoses and effective discharges absolutely take time.
The last thing I want to do is turn your hospital or practice into the healthcare equivalent of a fast food joint.
But some of the wait times your patients suffer through don’t add anything to successful clinical outcomes. And the reason you’re making patients wait? Probably it’s partly because you’ve always done things this way, and everyone else in healthcare is making patients wait as well.
Well, you can’t use that last rationalization anymore. Not if you’ve been watching what Cleveland Clinic has been doing on the timeliness front.
Let’s go back to listening to Cleveland Clinic, and that mind-blowing greeting:
“Thank you for calling Cleveland Clinic. Would you like to be seen today?” (After 4PM the greeting rolls over to”Would you like to be seen tomorrow?”)
This is for real. According to Dr. Merlino,
“Anybody calling [Cleveland Clinic] for an appointment for any specialty can be seen today.”
Getting people in to see a doctor the same day they call is an extreme and extraordinary move by Cleveland Clinic to take patient satisfaction to a new level.
Which is something that’s come a long way since the bad old days, when their incoming CEO, Toby Cosgrove, would joke, “Patients come to us for high quality care– but they don’t like us very much. ” (Which wasn’t much of a joke, really. When Cosgrove took the reins at Cleveland Clinic in 2004, patient satisfaction was in the lowest 10 percent of the nation.)
An eye on the millennial generation of patients
While nobody of any age likes to wait, this commitment to speed comes partly from Cleveland Clinic’s eyes being trained specifically on the incoming millennial generation of patients. (Millennials are a crucial generation of customers for any business—including healthcare—to consider. They are 80 million strong in the U.S., making them larger than the baby boom, and much larger than Generation X, the generation that immediately preceded them. And their expectations are quite different, being the first generation to take the internet, and smartphones, entirely for granted. A historical reality which changes their perception of time, convenience, and more.)
A million same-day appointments
They pull this off… how? Well, the same-day appointment commitment required Cleveland Clinic to get through some operational hurdles. Actually, Dr. Merlino corrects me on this: “‘operational hurdles’ is an understatement.” An extraordinary amount of work has had to be put into “managing the flow and ensuring we have the capacity.”
The same-day appointment promise is also dependent on a sophisticated triage process.
In other words: I can’t just call up and say
“I have a headache. I want to see a neurosurgeon.”
Well, actually, I can call in and say that—and they’ll be ready to deal with it. Here’s what happens: I’m taken through a series of questions on the phone; depending on how I answer those questions, the Cleveland Clinic telephone agent will be able to determine whom I should see, and will ensure I get that appointment today.
“So, Micah, [in the example above] you may not see a neurosurgeon for your headache, but you may see somebody who is a headache specialist or you may need to talk to a nurse who can better triage what you need. But we will get you to the right provider at the right time.
“If you call and say, ‘Look, I was in the emergency department last night with a headache and they did a CAT scan and they say I have a brain tumor. I need to be seen by a neurosurgeon today,’ you will see that neurosurgeon today. If you call in with a headache [and] you say certain things which are warning signs—answering yes to ‘is this the worst headache you ever have in your life?’ is one — you will immediately be transferred to a nurse who will do a more assessment and then guide you to an emergency department.
If it’s just a garden variety headache, as determined by the agent’s triage questions, they’ll still “get you an appointment with somebody today who can help you with the headache.”
Speak the patients’ language, use the patients’ channels
The same-day appointment commitment isn’t the only time-bending patient satisfaction change Cleveland Clinic has introduced. Another one that struck me is their understanding that patients these days, especially but not only millennial patients, want to communicate with their healthcare providers through the same communication channels they use to run their social lives. Which is a theme I am seeing in every arena of business. Appointments via mobile, information via mobile, chat online, doctors (after HIPAA waivers) corresponding with patients via email. Using telepresence for followup care with homebound patients. and more.
All of which, if you think about it, are ways to stretch, bend, mitigate the effect of time on the patient experience. Emails are asynchronous: they don’t have to be read at the time the doctor wrote them, a fact that can make things more convenient for both parties. Online chat is immediate when you need it to be immediate, again reducing wait. Information on mobile apps (Mayo is another leader in this) is another time — and potentially life— saver as well.
So what’s next on the speed front? Chief Experience Officer Merlino, who is also a practicing colorectal surgeon, jokes it might be, “Thank you for calling Cleveland Clinic. We’ve already solved your medical issue; is there anything else we can help with?”
Micah Solomon is a customer experience and patient satisfaction consultant, customer service keynote speaker, and author.
I trust this article has provided you with insight and approaches that can help you pinpoint those drivers that most strongly influence a patient’s willingness to recommend a hospital. If you are interested in learning more about using these methods, contact us at: TPMG Global® – Improving HCAHPS Scores and The Patient Experience
How Gender Stereotypes Kill a Woman’s Self-Confidence
by Dina Gerdeman
Women make up more than half of the labor force in the United States and earn almost 60 percent of advanced degrees, yet they bring home less pay and fill fewer seats in the C-suite than men, particularly in male-dominated professions like finance and technology.
This gender gap is due in part to “occupational sorting,” with men choosing careers that pay higher wages than women do, labor economists say. For example, women represent only 26 percent of US workers employed in computer and math jobs, according to the Department of Labor.
New research identifies one reason women might be shying away from certain professions: They lack confidence in their ability to compete in fields that men are stereotypically believed to perform more strongly in, such as science, math, and technology.
Women are also more reluctant to share their ideas in group discussions on these subjects. And even when they have talent—and are actually told they are high-achievers in these subjects—women are more likely than men to shrug off the praise and lowball their own abilities.
This weak self-confidence may hold some women back as they count themselves out of pursuing prestigious roles in professions they believe they won’t excel in, despite having the skills to succeed, says Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Katherine B. Coffman.
“Our beliefs about ourselves are important in shaping all kinds of important decisions, such as what colleges we apply to, which career paths we choose, and whether we are willing to contribute ideas in the workplace or try to compete for a promotion,” Coffman says. “If talented women in STEM aren’t confident, they might not even look at those fields in the first place. It’s all about how good we think we are, especially when we ask ourselves, ‘What does it make sense for me to pursue?’”
Coffman has recently co-written an article in the American Economic Review as well as two working papers, all aimed at studying men’s and women’s beliefs about their own abilities.
“Women are more likely than men to shrug off the praise and lowball their own abilities.”
What she found, in essence, is that gender stereotypes distort our views of both ourselves and others—and that may be especially troubling for women, since buying into those stereotypes could be creating a bleak self-image that is setting them back professionally.
Here’s a snapshot of findings from all three research studies:
Women are less confident than men in certain subjects, like math
In a study for the journal article Beliefs about Gender (pdf), Coffman and her colleagues asked participants to answer multiple-choice trivia questions in several categories that women are perceived to have a better handle on, like the Kardashians, Disney movies, cooking, art and literature, and verbal skills. Then they were quizzed in categories considered favorable for men, such as business, math, videogames, cars, and sports.
Respondents were asked to estimate how many questions they answered correctly on tests, and to guess the performance of a random partner whose gender was revealed. Both men and women exaggerated the actual gender performance gaps on average, overstating the male advantage in male-typed domains as well as overstating the female advantage in female-typed questions. And in predicting their own abilities, women had much less confidence in their scores on the tests they believed men had an advantage in.
“Gender stereotypes determine people’s beliefs about themselves and others,” Coffman says. “If I take a woman who has the exact same ability in two different categories—verbal and math—just the fact that there’s an average male advantage in math shapes her belief that her own ability in math is lower.”
Women discount positive feedback about their abilities
In an experiment for Coffman’s working paper Stereotypes and Belief Updating, participants completed a timed test of cognitive ability in five areas: general science, arithmetic reasoning, math knowledge, mechanical comprehension, and assembling objects. They were asked to guess their total number of correct answers, as well as how their performance compared to others. A woman who actually had the same score as a man estimated her score to be 0.58 points lower, a statistically significant gap. Even more surprising, even after participants were provided with feedback about how they performed, this gender gap in how well they perceived they did continued.
In a second study participants were asked to guess how they performed on a test in a randomly assigned subject matter and to predict their own rank relative to others completing the same test. The researchers then provided participants with feedback about their performance. They found that both men and women discounted good news about their scores in subjects that their gender was perceived to have more trouble with.
Stereotypes play on our minds so strongly that it becomes tougher to convince people of their talent in fields where they believe their gender is weak, Coffman says.
“A policy prescription to correct a confidence gap in women might be: Let’s find talented women and tell them, ‘Hey, you’re good at math. You got a really good score on this math test,'” she says. “But our results suggest that this feedback is less effective in closing the gender gap than we might hope. It’s harder than we thought to convince women in male-typed fields that they’ve performed well in these fields.”
It’s unclear whether women would feel better about their abilities if they received repeated rounds of positive feedback, rather than one piece of good news. “I’d be interested to find out if the gender bias gets smaller over time, once a woman has heard that she’s good at math over and over again,” Coffman says. “You might have to encourage women a few times if you want to close these gaps.”
“Our work suggests a need for structuring group decision-making in a way that assures the most talented members both volunteer and are recognized for their contributions, despite gender stereotypes.”
It’s important to note, Coffman says, that these studies also show that men have less confidence than women in their ability to shine in fields dominated by women. “It’s not that women are simply less confident; what we find consistently is that individuals are less confident in fields that are more stereotypically outside of their gender’s domain,” Coffman says.
Empathy in Times of Crisis
Posted By Helen Riess, M.D.
We are facing a critical time of fear and uncertainty with the invasion of the novel Corona virus on the world stage, when healthcare organizations are scrambling to keep patients and workers safe, informed and calm. When fear takes hold, we can expect reactions to follow along a continuum from frank denial to full scale panic. Both of these extreme responses are not only unhelpful, but dangerous.
When people raid grocery stores or hospital shelves and stock up on more hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes or face masks than they could possibly need, they leave others vulnerable to infection and with even greater fear and loss of control. In a time of crisis, we need to worry about other people as much or even more than ourselves.
Many regard empathy as merely a soft emotion of feeling sorry for others. Empathy is a powerful tool in times of crisis (see more at TEDx The Power of Empathy.) Our hard-wired capacity for empathy involves both cognitive and emotional centers of the brain, and when effectively harnessed together, can help leaders provide truthful, caring, and helpful information while at the same time remain calm, steady, and decisive. Empathy is a crucial part of emotional intelligence that leaders need to employ in times of crisis.
How does empathy relate to emotional intelligence (EI)? EI is the ability to practice: (1) self-awareness (2) other awareness, (3) self-management, and (4) relationship management. Being alert to these practices and actually putting them into action through empathy can greatly impact overall health and well-being – of ourselves as well as others – during a healthcare crisis.
Self-awareness means recognizing your own emotions. Before springing into action, you must first assess your own mental states so you can manage them. Many empathetic people are better at perceiving the emotional needs of others than their own. Just as oncologists must steady themselves before delivering bad news so they don’t inflict their own stress onto their patients, you must recognize your own emotions. Self-awareness also involves understanding your own vulnerabilities and remembering what you need to do to remain calm and safe. In our current crisis, this means you must take into account how your decision-making may be influenced by your emotional state, and then adjust your choices accordingly.
Other-Awareness and Empathy
Every human being has a longing to be seen and understood, and this longing becomes much more acute in times of crisis. “I see you” is the meaning of the Zulu word for hello, “Sawubona”. It is also what opens the gate for other-awareness and empathy. It takes intention and openness to take in the emotional and physical expressions of others. Instead of looking at a waiting room as a sea of humanity, it’s important to see each person as an individual. Just a kind look in the eye or using the person’s name more than once in a conversation will help people know they matter.
Other-awareness involves not only appreciating the feelings of others but also understanding their perspectives and life circumstances. This capacity allows us to move beyond the chief complaints people have to valuing their chief concerns. Patients or co-workers who seem to be over-reacting to the current health crisis likely have some legitimate reasons for their fears. Genuine interest and careful listening will be necessary during this healthcare challenge to prevent dismissing concerns or labeling others. Showing empathy in this way will help calm fears and enable others to make rational choices for the care of themselves and others.
Self-Management and Self-Empathy
Implementing the tools that work best to calm your own fears requires knowing yourself and understanding your need for self-empathy. Contrary to popular belief, self-empathy is different from selfishness. It’s very hard to take good care of others if you neglect yourself. Self-empathy does not mean “I care more about myself more than you” but rather, “I need to take care of myself so I’m able to take care of you.” Every healthcare provider and staff member needs their own unique tool kit for self-management and know when to use it. And when we are asked to use social distancing and self-quarantine to avoid virus exposure, we do this to help both ourselves and others.
The secret to effective relationship management is empathic listening and seeking to understand others’ feelings, thoughts and circumstances. It is essential to finding common ground. In a crisis, we need to relay facts with empathy and clarity. False assurances are worthless and cause greater alarm when truth is revealed. In other words, spreading false hope is destructive. True empathy requires the ability to tune into the fears and concerns of others and provide the best recommendations, even if they are not what people want to hear. It is walking the fine line of perceiving and taking care of immediate emotions while not losing sight of what is the best medical care in the long term. No one wants to hear that his/her normal routines and practices are now curtailed, but when focused on the long-term health of our society, the short-term restrictions make sense.
The Power of Empathy: A Call to Action
At this time of international emergency, there’s an urgent need for global empathy. The current situation calls for us to empower ourselves and others to collectively come together, bringing our best selves to the forefront to overcome this global health crisis. Far from the notion of survival of the fittest, where the strongest individuals only take care of themselves, we need altruism, cooperation, and collaboration to save our society as a whole. It is time to think about our patients as individuals, as well as our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family, and do what we can to support one another and to ask for help when we need it ourselves.
Helping each other is what brings us together and enlivens our spirit and our communities, and it is needed now more than ever, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.
Dr. Riess is a psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She directs the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. She has devoted her career to the art and science of healing relationships. Her research has been published in leading medical journals and has won many awards. Dr Riess’s TEDx talk “The power of Empathy TEDX” has been viewed by more than 500,000 viewers. Her new book, The Empathy Effect has been licensed in nine foreign countries. In 2012, Dr. Riess co-founded Empathetics.com an organization that provides evidence-based empathy and communication skills training for healthcare and education. Dr. Riess and her teams are dedicated to transforming healthcare systems into compassionate care systems.
The Hard Work of Health Care Transformation
Richard M.J. Bohmer, M.B., Ch.B., M.P.H.
Governments and regulators influence the performance of health care organizations and practitioners primarily through positive and negative financial incentives, regulatory constraints on their licenses to practice, and support of performance-improvement activities through education, research, and measurement programs. The financial approaches aim to motivate change in the way organizations and practitioners configure their systems and deliver care, under the assumption that once they’re motivated to seek surplus or avoid sanction, they’ll be willing and able to make local operational changes to reduce cost and improve safety, patient experience, and outcomes. Unfortunately, experience shows that although a changed market may be a helpful precondition to local performance improvement, it hardly guarantees effective operational change.
Some organizations have successfully transformed themselves, however, substantially improving efficiency and quality. How have they done so? One popular approach is top-management–led structural and governance change — moving boxes on organizational charts of an individual entity or regional system. Services are merged or broken up, new roles defined, and new responsibilities assigned. This approach appeals to boards, CEOs, and consultants because big changes can be made rapidly. But such rearrangements may disappoint.1 Examination of organizations that have achieved and sustained substantial performance improvements reveals that lasting transformation requires the relentless hard work of local operational redesign.
Organizations’ delivery of care is ultimately governed by structures and processes at the ward, clinic, or practice level. These elements have usually accreted over time, often in response to regulations or technology and without subsequent performance review or deliberate updating. In contrast, successful “transformers,” from Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center to the Salford Royal National Health Service Foundation Trust in England, constantly make small-scale changes to their structures and processes over long periods.2 Everything from communicating with patients to cleaning gastroscopes to ordering tests and choosing therapies has been subject to redesign. Major change emerges from aggregation of marginal gains.
These organizations’ experiences clarify that multidisciplinary teams must undertake this redesign work.3 The provision of modern health care integrates so many specialized skills — clinical and nonclinical — and patients routinely cross so many intra- and interorganizational boundaries that no single designer can create a highly functioning microsystem. Such teams often have diverse membership, including not only patients, referring doctors, corporate staff, and community service providers but also design engineers. When these teams redesign local structures and processes, they do more than write a “best practice protocol.” They also reconfigure the workflow, workforce, supporting technology, and even physical care delivery sites.
Other hard truths emerge from studying successful organizations. Teams often redesign local structures and processes despite the lack of senior support, adequate data, capital, or a reimbursement system that rewards their efforts. Although consultants routinely list support from senior leaders as a key prerequisite for change, initiation and early leadership of such teams often comes from the middle — committed clinicians and managers volunteering early mornings and late evenings to create better-functioning systems for their patients. Teams use whatever imperfect data are available, often collecting essential data by hand; they recognize that important organizational design decisions are often made with insufficient information. And few redesigns get it 100% right the first time. In practice, health care transformation is a long series of local experiments.
Transformation requires sustained change in individual behavior, team interactions, and operations design. Although consultants and information technology vendors can help, experience has shown that more than anything, change depends on internal redesign work.
If detailed, low-level, repetitive redesign of local operating systems one at a time is the reality of improving health care, how do successful transformers support their staff through that process? How do they change in a systematic way? And how can organizations seeking transformation make the process easier and faster than it was for the vanguard?
Examination of high-performing organizations suggests seven essential organizational elements that support orchestrated team-based redesign. First, these organizations deploy many redesign teams concurrently — some permanent, some temporary. Virginia Mason convenes small teams transiently to redesign key processes, whereas Intermountain Healthcare (Utah and Idaho) has a permanent team structure responsible for redesign and long-term oversight. Both organizations have developed expertise in managing multidisciplinary teams.
These redesign teams are typically led by clinicians, although managers are well represented. They aim to improve the quality and the efficiency of care simultaneously, and the organizations see no conflict between those goals. Because many clinicians don’t feel empowered or prepared to lead such efforts or feel comfortable with resource stewardship, transformers invest heavily in leadership development, usually creating their own leadership programs rather than outsourcing them, and they free leaders from some clinical duties to create sufficient time for this work.
Transforming organizations have a routinized process for change. The basis for their standardized approach to analysis, redesign, improvement, and management varies, but what’s most important is not which model — lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, six sigma — is chosen but that the process is internalized, repetitive, and consistent so that the same language is used throughout the organization and independent teams can undertake redesign autonomously.
In addition, these organizations have an internal support resource that includes skills in design, project management, data analysis, financial analysis, and organizational development. Organizations may be tempted to rely on management consultants for support, but the transformers have worked to develop these capabilities internally.
They also have well-developed measurement systems that include both a capability for developing or reviewing measures of clinical or financial performance and the capacity to collect, report, and act on internally generated data. Data are often an Achilles’ heel: few doctors believe they have adequate data for system redesign. Transformers, however, do the best they can with available information, recognizing that data will improve over time. They address clinicians’ need for evidence-based decision making by treating design change as a test of concept, rather than implementation of a known answer. Redesign becomes a process for testing new metrics and data sources, which can, over time, mitigate short-term data inadequacy.
Furthermore, a senior oversight group is responsible for establishing teams, setting their priorities, monitoring their progress, addressing institutional barriers to change, and integrating multiple teams’ work. This group ensures that teams remain focused on organizational priorities and have the necessary resources, and it resolves conflicts that arise when multiple groups make demands on shared resources. The teams thus become part of a broader structure for clinical governance and form the core of performance-management and improvement efforts. At Intermountain, the permanent teams both redesign and manage care systems.
Finally, because any model of team-based redesign devolves authority and accountability away from top executives, transformers have invested in creating a widely understood set of unifying values and norms. Whether expressed in value statements, compacts, or credos, these standards help align staff behavior both with the organization’s goals and among the professions working together to meet those goals, and they guide behavior when there’s no clear decision rule.
Many organizations find this approach challenging, and not only because it’s slow or requires investment. It also risks requiring job cuts, or at least job changes. Most challenging, however, is the fundamental change it represents in an enterprise’s governance. Clinician-led teams take control of patient-facing organizational subsystems and reform clinical protocols and operations, review performance data and make modifications, and may even have local financial control and responsibility. In effect, instead of taking their work context as a given, staff actively create the local system needed to provide the best possible care. This shift may be a bridge too far for some organizations, especially those facing reduced revenue or an urgent need for a turnaround.
Unfortunately, in the longer term, the prolonged hard work of repetitive, incremental, and often small-scale rebuilding of local operating systems probably cannot be avoided. Individual behavior change motivated by payment reform may be insufficient to generate the quality and efficiency gains needed in coming years. In their first year, the Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations have achieved only modest results.4 However, organizations seeking transformation can ease the process by building the support system described above. The short-term investments that are required can be surprisingly small, because most organizations already have many of the requisite human assets. The most substantial hurdle, it seems, is the change in mindset.
Zero to 50,000 — The 20th Anniversary of the Hospitalist
Robert M. Wachter, M.D., and Lee Goldman, M.D., M.P.H.
Twenty years ago, we described the emergence of a new type of specialist that we called a “hospitalist.”1 Since then, the number of hospitalists has grown from a few hundred to more than 50,000 (see graph) — making this new field substantially larger than any subspecialty of internal medicine (the largest of which is cardiology, with 22,000 physicians), about the same size as pediatrics (55,000), and in fact larger than any specialty except general internal medicine (109,000) and family medicine (107,000). Approximately 75% of U.S. hospitals, including all highly ranked academic health centers, now have hospitalists. The field’s rapid growth has both reflected and contributed to the evolution of clinical practice over the past two decades.
In the mid-1990s, the combination of managed care for privately insured patients and Medicare’s diagnosis-related-group–based payment system for inpatients pushed hospitals to manage care more efficiently without sacrificing quality or alienating patients. Hospitalists emerged as one potential solution. Within a few years, evidence showed that using hospitalists could result in reduced costs, shortened lengths of stay, and preserved or even enhanced quality of care and patient satisfaction2,3 — in essence improving the value of care. The field was off and running.
For hospital medicine to grow as quickly as it has, many stars had to align, including a viable financial framework, a pool of qualified physicians, and enough force to overcome resistance to change. Remarkably, those stars did align.
The first issue was economic. By the mid-1990s, elective medical admissions had all but disappeared, but emergency admissions were increasing. Acutely ill patients needed rapid attention on admission and often multiple daily visits during hospitalization, regardless of whether that disrupted the flow of physicians’ outpatient practices. Moreover, the remuneration for nonprocedural inpatient care, especially given its growing complexity, was not high enough to make physicians who had historically been responsible for such care (primary care physicians in community settings and specialist and researcher attendings in academia) feel strongly about retaining their hospital roles. So most such physicians willingly turned inpatient care over to hospitalists.
How could hospitalists, then, fashion careers out of a role that was economically unattractive to their colleagues? Once evidence of substantial cost savings had accumulated, health care organizations found it advantageous to have hospitalist programs, and most provided financial support to create appealing jobs with reasonable salaries. Thanks to the value proposition and new duty-hour limits for residents, hospitalists also increasingly became responsible for staffing nonteaching services in teaching hospitals.
The second facilitator of hospitalist growth was the very large pool of general internists in the United States, most of whom were trained predominantly in inpatient settings. Many internists, whether newly minted or experienced, found the hospitalist role attractive, particularly given growing dissatisfaction with primary care internal medicine. In contrast, the small reservoirs of general internists in countries such as Canada and Britain have hindered efforts to build inpatient programs staffed by generalists.
Third, the quality, patient-safety, and value movements and widespread implementation of electronic health records all emerged just as the hospitalist field came of age. Hospitalists’ early emphasis on improving systems of care4 bolstered the field’s credibility and fostered the development of a cadre of young physicians who would ultimately assume local and national leadership roles. For example, the U.S. Surgeon General and the chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are hospitalists — an impressive validation of such a young field.
As the specialty grew in size and stature, the model spawned variations on its central theme. One obvious extension was pediatric hospitalists, who now account for approximately 10% of hospitalists. More creative variations include “hyphenated hospitalists,” such as surgical hospitalists (also called acute care surgeons), neuro-hospitalists, and obstetrical hospitalists. Medical hospitalists also often comanage care with surgeons or medical subspecialists, thereby reducing costs and allowing those specialists to concentrate on procedural tasks.5 Finally, financial penalties for readmissions have led many hospitalists to staff post–acute care facilities to improve coordination with colleagues at acute care hospitals.
Despite the hospitalist field’s unprecedented growth, there have been challenges. The model is based on the premise that the benefits of inpatient specialization and full-time hospital presence outweigh the disadvantages of a purposeful discontinuity of care. Although hospitalists have been leaders in developing systems (e.g., handoff protocols and post-discharge phone calls to patients) to mitigate harm from discontinuity, it remains the model’s Achilles’ heel.
Many hospitalists have added value as local leaders in quality improvement, safety, and innovation, but some have functioned more as shift workers. For example, many community hospitalists have a 7-days-on, 7-days-off schedule that focuses mainly on high-volume clinical work and sends an unspoken but clear message that, at the end of an intensive clinical “on” stint, one is “off” and uninvolved. Our impression is that hospitalist programs provide more value when hospitalists’ inpatient assignments (clinical “systole”) are complemented by a systems-oriented “diastole,” during which clinical activity is limited but they contribute to key institutional programs. Productive diastole is more likely when hospitalists have strong leadership, a robust professional-development curriculum, and a mutual hospital–hospitalist commitment to adding value during specified and structured nonclinical time.
Another problematic, though not unanticipated, consequence of the use of hospitalists has been a diminished role for specialists and researchers on teaching services. Because specialists are far less likely than they once were to serve as inpatient attendings, trainees have less contact with them and less exposure to basic and translational science.
Finally, the few academic hospitalist groups that have developed substantial research programs generally emphasize the implementation of quality- and systems-related initiatives. Hospitalists have been slow to pursue substantial inquiry into discovery related to the common inpatient diseases they see or to lead multicenter trials of new diagnostic or therapeutic approaches. This deficiency limits hospitalists’ credibility in academia and the advancement of the field.
Although we continue to believe that the hospitalist model is the best guarantor of high-quality, efficient inpatient care, it’s clear that today’s pressures require innovative approaches around this core. In addition to following patients in post–acute care facilities, another modified approach is to have a subgroup of hospitalists function as “comprehensivist” physicians who care for a small panel of the highest-risk, most frequently admitted outpatients and remain involved when hospitalization is required. This model aims to blend the advantages of the hospitalist model for the vast majority (>95%) of inpatients with the potential advantages of continuity for a small group of patients who are admitted repeatedly.
Hospitalist programs are innovating in other ways as well. Many are developing early-warning protocols in which electronic health record data are used to identify patients who are at risk for problems such as sepsis or falls. Others are implementing bedside ultrasonography for procedures and diagnosis, pioneering methods of making rounds more patient- and family-centric, implementing unit-based leadership teams, or applying process-improvement approaches such as the Toyota Production System to inpatient care.
Many academic programs are also experimenting with new ways of reconnecting specialists and scientists with trainees. Some have begun offering focused basic-science training to hospitalists, others have developed molecular medicine consult services, and still others have instituted dual attending programs, with a consultative teaching specialist joining a more hands-on teaching hospitalist. Such innovations are welcome and should be studied. In fact, the field’s greatest risk may well be complacency — failing to embrace the kinds of transformation and disruption that led to its birth, or being slow to address the inevitable side effects of even the best innovation.
When we described the hospitalist concept 20 years ago, we argued that it would become an important part of the health care landscape. Yet we couldn’t have predicted the growth and influence it has achieved. Today, hospital medicine is a respected field whose greatest legacies may be improvement of care and efficiency, injection of systems thinking into physician practice, and the vivid demonstration of our health care system’s capacity for massive change under the right conditions.