This Clinical Team Likes “Change” !

Tom Zimmerman

Several weeks ago I enjoyed spending the morning at an outpatient specialty clinic.

They serve over 300 patients a day and the facility just crackles with positive energy and work ethic.

The staff took some time to reflect on a transformation that has been more than a year in the making. As they shared their story, I came to understand that there was a real grass roots effort that began with team members who were on the front line with patients.

This included imaging technologists and nursing staff. But it also involved their information technology (IT) counterparts, who were hands-on with the practice management and PACS software.

There were two related “trigger” topics that surfaced in their account of events.

  • As a core team in a fairly large operation, they simply believed they could be more efficient. Patient wait times and related bottlenecks were inconsistent. They didn’t feel they were able to specifically identify or address some of the contributing factors. IT tools were available but not customized to the extent they believed possible.
  • The facility was considering the addition of another imaging room at significant expense. This core team believed the expansion would prove unnecessary if they could effect change in their overall operation.

Last month I witnessed the obvious fruits of their labor. Wait times weren’t just down. Their entire clinical team is proactively aware and informed to the minute (with superb wireless tablet and overhead monitor tools) of patient and clinician status. I saw team members pitching in on multiple tasks to help each other and their patients make real time adjustments in workflow decisions because every day is different. And no, they did not add that extra imaging room!

Each of the team members who invited me to shadow their workflow brought up three recurring themes:

  1.  At the heart of change was the belief that they could simply do better. The clinical and IT teams did not know what specific changes would be made in advance, but they were committed to finding and implementing them. Sometimes these were simply piloted for one shift or one team. And not everything worked the first time without further refinement.
  2. In addition to enhanced patient care, there grew the overall sense of a more positive culture. Continuing improvements won over skeptics all the way up the hierarchy and led to deeper buy-in. And each team member I spoke to seemed to genuinely enjoy their working environment. No small thing.
  3. Recognizing the value of a more nimble and adaptive culture, they actually began to seek change-oriented attributes in new staff members. Effective, continuous change, together with their laser focus on patient are, is now seen as a positive part of their go-forward culture.

I compared this to a recent commercial “check-up” for my car. I was similarly impressed by a prompt greeting and the insightful questions asked by service personnel at check-in. I was personally escorted to an immaculate waiting area, offered an array of beverages and informed of the free Wi-Fi access. The service manager checked in with me midway through the work to advise me of status and asked if there was anything else they could provide. Checkout was quick and painless, and they had washed my car. Everything done with a cheerful smile.

One day later I received an email survey form from the dealership. Literally every item that had garnered my attention from the service experience was available to rate on the form. Time to check in, cleanliness, quality of the work and….cheerfulness of the staff. It was prescribed and rated, and effectively executed.

I’m sure they have surveys at the outpatient center I visited as well. But they didn’t begin their culture change with the survey. They didn’t prescribe the specific steps to that level of detail. They simply had a core team of people who knew they could do better. Enhanced efficiency…enhanced patient care….a more positive, agile culture. And they didn’t add that extra imaging room. At least not yet!

Please do let me know your own experiences and insights. I’ll write more on this in the future.

Be encouraged in all you do!

Tom Z

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