Healthcare News & Insights

How hospital management can support frontline workers

In order to meet the demands of the changing healthcare environment, hospital management will need to evolve to support frontline workers. 

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Since its implementation, the Affordable Care Act has significantly changed the standards providers must meet, particularly in the area of patient-centered care.

However, old management models may not be sufficient to meet these new requirements.

Switch to ‘bottom-up’ management

For example, in a recent article for the Health Affairs Blog, John Toussaint, CEO of the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, believes hospitals must adjust management in order to thrive in the new healthcare environment.

Rather than rely on the traditional “top-down” management style most organizations have used, Toussant believes leaders should switch to a management by process model which empowers frontline clinicians and staff.

Toussant and Thedacare suggest a management framework which includes several important factors:

Applying the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle

This refers to a scientific problem-solving method designed to create solutions for day-to-day issues quickly.

For example, Toussant points to a Minnesota health system where frontline nurses and providers have daily morning huddles to identify and solve problems. Recently, the organization used the method to address delays from missing equipment, creating taped-off areas in supply rooms for equipment, which then serve as visual cues to restock equipment if a worker sees the taped area is empty.

Using ‘model cells’

A model cell is any area where care is redesigned, usually to streamline operations. Creating a model cell may create new duties for staff and leaders.

As Toussant noted, the Palo Alto Medical foundation recently used this method to improve care and reduce costs. The facility created a model cell at one of its clinics, and performed tasks like opening up previously private offices, developing dyads between doctors and assistants, and implementing daily morning huddles, all of which drastically improved care and patient experience at the clinic.

Creating ‘Lean’ management

This management style is designed to identify inefficiencies in healthcare settings, and focuses on continued improvement through small, incremental changes to processes.

This includes creating visual management boards that highlight key performance metrics for a department to strive for and encouraging staff to propose possible improvements. Additionally, lean managers train staff to identify and solve problems, as well as how to map care processes to evaluate which steps may be improved or don’t provide value to the patient.

Toussant also suggests that organizations make sure roles, responsibilities and competencies for managers are clearly defined and standardized when possible.

As the quality of care and patient satisfaction continue to be priorities in the new healthcare landscape, hospital leaders will have to spend more time considering strategies like these to empower the frontline workers responsible for positive outcomes and good patient experiences, or risk struggling to keep up with the rest of the industry.

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