Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Staffing for Patients, Not Beds

Go a minute?

I want to let you in on an often-overlooked “secret” of process improvement:

You can’t hurry success.

It takes a while for improvements to germinate and transform an organization. For me, that’s the important takeaway from “Staffing for Patients, Not Beds,” an article in the February 2013 issue of Industrial Engineer.

The article describes one organization’s efforts to match their staffing needs with the daily fluctuating patient volume. While it’s a common struggle for many healthcare organizations, their solution was uncommonly smart. 

Many organizations seek quick results. That’s no surprise, really, given our current business climate. 

As a result, many leadership teams demand immediate corrective action such as layoffs, and increased scrutiny of productivity and/or overtime usage. But the fundamental underlying processes aren’t changed, with predictable results.

A get-it-done attitude can often have lingering negative impacts, such as:
• A manager with an additional metric to collect data on and report
• A more chaotic workflow
• Frustrated staff that now feel overworked
• Increased patient harm events
• A leadership team that never experiences real improvement

Taking time is essential. The improvement team featured in Industrial Engineer took a three-pronged approach well-suited to solving large scope challenges. 

They implemented immediate countermeasures and short-term solutions (1-12 weeks) designed to satisfy leadership that improvements were being made. Simultaneously they sought long-term solutions (3-12 months) that would give process improvement professionals the time needed to understand and correct the underlying process issues causing performance issues.

Knowing that you can’t hurry success can help you create a plan for improvement that will help everyone in the process feel satisfied with the results. I encourage you to check out the article in Industrial Engineer.

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