I have always been struck by an interesting paradox in healthcare, the drive of competition and the need for collaboration. I have seen the competitive drive of healthcare facilities in the same market as they strive for higher volumes, physician loyalty, expanded service lines, and growing market presence. At the same time, with the increased focus on improving quality and service, healthcare facilities are driven to collaborate on such ideas as proven practices in combating hospital acquired infections, strategies for noise reduction on the nursing floors, or faster throughput in the Emergency Department.
My observation is that healthcare facilities seem more than willing to share ideas outside their market or at a national level rather than collaborate on ideas that may be of direct value to the communities they serve. While this broad sharing is of value, and I encourage it, it has local consequences as well. It can lead to a shrinking of the local knowledge base and require facilities to look beyond their markets for innovative ideas.
My challenge with this is that as the healthcare industry struggles overall to ensure the best patient experience for everyone, the important practices that drive a successful experience, including quality and service, should not be used as the competitive wedge between healthcare organizations. Sharing proven practices, processes and knowledge that can be used to improve the patient experience, is an obligation to the community you serve. It does not detract from your competitive edge, but rather allows you to emerge as an expert and a contributor to the overall health of your market.
Improving the patient experience is about the basic common sense fundamentals we know and believe in when choosing to take on healthcare as a profession. The "whats” of addressing the patient experience (knowledge, processes, practices) should be our universal in providing the best care for patients. The "how” you choose to get it done is where you can and should distinguish your competitive edge. It is in the execution of your plan and your organization’s commitment to engage in driving the critical components of an effective program where the patient experience is truly realized. It is not simply in WHAT you do…but HOW you choose to do it.
In the book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan are explicit in defining execution as "a systematic process of rigorously discussing ‘whats’ and ‘hows’, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability.” Execution is your competitive edge in effectively improving the patient experience. I challenge you to use this as your measuring stick. How well do you execute on the fundamentals of an unparalleled patient experience? What are you willing to commit to to ensure your processes are most successful?
I challenge you to share your practices on improving the patient experience broadly and then compete on how well you can execute on those plans. If we are willing to focus on execution, we will find greater potential for improvement. Rather than being caught in a battle over whose process is better, our patients will be buoyed by a rising tide of execution that will ultimately ensure the best experience for the patients we all serve.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute