Is Anyone Listening?

In a recent Senate hearing, physicians from Harvard, based on recent research, stated that hospitals are no safer today than they were 15 years ago when the IOM Report “To Err is Human” drew national attention. In doing the research for our upcoming book, we have found many books written over the last 25 years putting forth strategies to improve both the quality and lowering the costs of health care in the United States, while no measurable improvement has occurred overall. In working with some clients, we are helping them format successful roadmaps to address their significant challenges, but find that little effort is applied to the implementation of the corrective action plans.

In addition, in looking over “old” presentations and workshops in leadership training and strategic planning that we have facilitated over the last decade, much of our content is as relevant today as it was when originally presented. And, when evaluating the operational performance of Boards and Leadership Teams, we are finding that they are not even practicing what would be considered Governance and Management 101.

So, we must pause and ask the question – “Is Anyone Listening?”

Healthcare organizations are being led by very smart people, and there are a myriad of institutions doing the right thing and prospering. But if there is no improvement in quality and safety overall, there must be more organizations posting negative results which are cancelling out those scoring on the positive side. What could be the reasons for this lack of progress in light of the availability of many sources of knowledge formulating potential solutions for improvement?

Obviously, this is a complex problem, and therefore the reasons will not be found in a simple answer, but rather encompass one or more of the following:

  1. Leaders do not believe the “platform is burning” and therefore are not seeking help to address their challenge
  2. They do not give high priority to quality outcomes, but are more focused on financial success and popularity
  3. They are seeking help but are not truly “listening” to the advice
  4. They do not understand the advice and are not asking for clarity and further discussions until they do understand
  5. They understand what needs to be done, but lack the understanding of how to implement
  6. They have implemented improvement plans, but do not have accountability plans in place so the team members stay focused on the implementation and reaching the metrics for success for all the implementation goals
  7. They know what to do and how to do it, but in the end, they are just too tired to do it

Whatever the reasons, none are acceptable. Why? Because where we have poor quality and safely, we have poor patient outcomes. And equally important, we are violating the sacred trust our patients have put in us when they turned their most important gift they have over to us – their life!

To stop the stagnation of progress we must assure not only ourselves, but our teams, that we cannot be blind to the truth where we “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” We must take off these blinders, and not only listen for, learn about, implement, and hold accountable our teams to the performance plans that we have been speaking about for so long that will truly make a difference.

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