Despite being arguably the most important industry for the wellbeing of humanity, changes and improvements in healthcare seem to take the longest. If you work in healthcare, you probably know this better than anyone.
Healthcare improvement advocates have ideas to make processes better, but often encounter barriers to putting their plans into action. Once these obstacles are identified and an internal improvement accountability infrastructure is established, real change can begin.
Below are five barriers that make healthcare improvement so difficult and tips to overcome them.
5 Obstacles to Healthcare Improvement
1. Goal Definition and Accountability
As the saying goes, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Zig Ziglar teaches a valuable lesson that definitely applies to healthcare. If there are not specific, defined goals, no one knows what they are working toward.
Without clear goals, it is impossible to hold improvement teams accountable for their work and accomplishments or to know if the team is progressing in the right direction. This can cause chaos from the start.
“Becoming a Highly Reliable Organization (HRO)” sounds like a great goal, but lacks the clear parameters required to align a complex organization over a multi-year journey. You need common, unified goals with designated responsibilities.
2. Progress Tracking
This snowballs from the previous step. Progress tracking cannot happen if there is nothing to progress toward. What gets tracked gets done. It is easier to see progress when goals and accountability are defined. This allows leaders to know what is working, what is not working, and what next steps to take.
Over time and with enough data, decision-makers can understand how to make systematic improvements in their organization. Progress tracking can help decision makers adjust plans based on real-time information, reassign improvement support where needed, and identify what’s working as it’s happening.
3. Clear Leadership Structure
The line of leadership in a hospital is not always crystal clear or easy to navigate. With the complications of multiple layers of management and accountability, it may not always be obvious who needs to approve what, what to do when a certain person is out, or if tasks need clearance from multiple people.
When there is no clear leadership structure, the rest of the team can feel fragmented in their efforts to make improvements. With a proper structure in place, staff will know the appropriate steps to take, who to report to, and who to go to with questions.
4. Data to Back up Decisions
If there is no way to track data, there is no way to make decisions based on real numbers. Unfortunately, many decisions end up being “guesstimates,” in which healthcare leaders hope for the best result based on what they think is happening in their organization. That is why a healthcare improvement system is so important.
A tracking mechanism provides real-time analytics, which will allow for data-rich conversations and decisions by healthcare leaders. A reliable system takes out the error and guesswork that happens when there is no way to actually track results.
5. Communication From the Bedside to the Board Room
Frontline clinical staff struggles to make improvement progress when their target for success is constantly moving.
When leaders rely on word-of-mouth or notes to transfer instructions to frontline staff, information is at risk of being forgotten, misunderstood, or not delivered in a timely fashion.
Assigning clear team roles and using a single repository for consistent progress monitoring will close any communication gaps and allows leaders to course correct when needed. An accountability system gives leadership visibility into what is happening on the frontline of care in the most concise, convenient way, creating a continuous feedback loop.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
Even though changes in healthcare can feel painfully slow, that does not need to continue to be the norm. Now that you understand more about the obstacles in healthcare improvement, you can intelligently design a plan to jump those hurdles.
An improvement tracking system allows you to choose goals, assign accountable team members, track progress, display leadership sequence, collect data, and incorporate feedback. For help putting a system like this together, schedule a quick demo with us.