Archive for March, 2011

What Physicians and Others Can Do to Celebrate National Doctors Day

March 30, 2011

Physicians do great work every day. I know and work with many extraordinary healers, and I see their dedication and diligence firsthand. And yet, so many of us (yes, I am a physician, too!) are so busy caring for our patients and our own families that we have little time to reflect on our own accomplishments. Fortunately, we have Doctors Day—today, March 30—as an opportunity to take a breather and consider what we do well…and what we might do better.

Here are a few of my suggestions for physicians and other healthcare professionals who support them.

For doctors:

  • Take a moment to pause and think about all the good you have done over the course of your career. The lives saved, the lives improved, the care you gave to patients even when you couldn’t cure them.
  • Remember the “big picture” when the frustrations of the healthcare environment start to close in on you. Healing and helping others is a calling, and the good work you do makes up for the headaches that come with practicing medicine.
  • Remember that we have limitations. Make sure that you realize and accept your own.
  • Spend time with your family. They are also important, and time passes much too quickly. Don’t work your life away.
  • Take care of your own health. The phrase “Physician, heal thyself” came about for a reason. I didn’t appreciate the wisdom of this advice until my own health began to suffer.
  • Remember to practice kindness, empathy, and gratitude with patients, staff, and everyone around you. It’s the only way you will ever be happy.

For doctor supporters:

  • Take a moment to think about how the doctors you know have helped patients. Chances are a physician has made a huge impact on your life and on the lives of people you love.
  • Thank them for their work. Doctors don’t always hear those two little words—thank you—and when they do, it truly means a lot.
  • Manage up doctors with patients. This will show that we are all on the same team.
  • Do whatever you can to make a doctor’s day easier. Be as efficient as possible with reports and other information you provide them. In the end, this will benefit patients, too.
  • Remember that treating doctors with kindness, empathy, and gratitude will enhance your own happiness and the quality of the environment you work in.

Of course, you probably have your own ideas to add to the list. Just please do something for yourself or a physician you care about to commemorate this special occasion. Thanks to all of you who work so hard to provide exceptional care every day.

Warm regards,

Barbara Loeb, MD


Three Ways Your ED Can Survive and Thrive in the Future

March 23, 2011

“Excellence in the ED is as much about changing processes as it is about changing behaviors.” – Quint Studer

Last year, U.S. emergency departments served more than 119 million patients. Certainly, the tide will continue to rise in 2011. And with pay-for-performance on the horizon, the performance of your ED—the front door to the hospital—will be critical to your organization’s ability to survive and thrive throughout the rest of 2011 and beyond.

But here’s the thing: There’s no fairy dust to sprinkle. What works? Simple evidence-based tools and tactics that hardwire the delivery of efficient, quality patient-centered care and strong operational performance in the ED.

Tactics That Deliver Results

1. Maximize flow and throughput. What’s the best practice? Many high-performing EDs we coach move patients from arrival to discharge in 120 minutes, although nationally, the ED average is closer to three hours.

To identify your bottleneck, begin by tracking key metrics, like patient arrival-to-discharge and door-to-doc times. Looking for a big impact? Make it a goal to reduce door-to-doc time by 20 percent. (Use immediate bedding and streamline registration. Remember, triage is a process, not a place.)

2. Match staffing to flow and throughput. While many organizations try to change flow and throughput, far fewer ever adjust staffing to match it. Try this: Track patient arrivals over 24 hours. Then overlay your staffing pattern. If you are a typical ED, you’ll have too many staff members working during slow morning hours and not enough during crunch time. No need to add FTEs…just match staffing to patients.

3. Hardwire accountability. To really hardwire processes that drive measurable results quickly, use tools that validate that the prescribed behaviors are occurring with every patient every time. (You can download samples of hourly rounding logs, discharge phone call templates, sample bedside shift reports, and more here.)

And last, be committed to tackling tough issues that are barriers to excellence in your ED, whatever they may be.

In emergency medicine, what we do is never a job. It’s a calling. The good news is we have the answers to the challenges we face. Does it require change? Absolutely! But we’re good at change. Change is about choice, and choice is about us. Ultimately, it’s up to us.

Best wishes on your journey to excellence.

Yours in service,

Stephanie Baker

P.S. If you’re interested in drilling down on these and other tactics, please join me at Studer Group’s two-day Excellence in the Emergency Department Institute, June 29-30 in Chicago and November 8-9 in Las Vegas. Learn more here.

Effective Meetings: Two Powerful Communication Tips to Try Right Now

March 16, 2011

(Don’t miss the link at the bottom to a video clip diving deeper into this topic.)

What separates high performing individuals and groups from lower performing ones? Often there’s a simple answer: communication.

Because leaders are human, it’s unlikely we’ll ever communicate with 100 percent clarity and efficiency. The great news is there are things we can do that will lead to vast improvements in this vital area.

Here are two techniques we suggest leaders try. Both of them involve adjustments to the meetings you’re already holding:

  1. Synchronize meetings between senior leaders and direct reports. During your next senior leader team meeting, ask each leader when he or she meets with direct reports. It will become obvious why there is inconsistency in performance. Let’s say the senior leader team meets weekly on Tuesday afternoons. It is not unusual to learn that some leaders meet with their direct reports on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Some may wait until Monday. Chances are very few hold their meetings late in the day on Tuesday (right after the senior team meeting).

    There is also inconsistency in how often senior leaders meet with direct reports. Some meet each week; others at least once every two weeks.

    So, what we have is a situation in which important items are being shared at different times (and at different frequencies) with key stakeholders. The result is that some staff members are taking action immediately. Others aren’t. And the staff members who haven’t yet had their meetings hear things through the grapevine from the others—which leads to confusion and misinformation being passed around.

    A good solution is to ask everyone on the senior leader team to hold their direct report meetings on the same day and (if possible) at the same time. This simple change will greatly reduce the time leaders spend reacting to people wondering if what they are hearing is correct. It will also ensure that everyone is taking the same actions consistently.

    Finally, holding all leader department meetings at the same time will make it much easier to pull the entire group together, if needed.

  2. During meetings, clarify exactly what will be communicated afterward. I find that in both senior leader meetings and department team leader meetings, very seldom is time allotted to discuss what needs to be communicated, when, how, and by whom. Taking time to do this will result in all leaders, and thus the organization, being on the same page.

    Experience has shown me that in most organizations it’s not the decisions that are the problem, it’s the communication around them. We spend all of our time and energy reaching decisions, then miss the opportunity to assure the best way to communicate those decisions. It’s this last 10 percent that makes the previous 90 percent pay off.

I urge you to try these two simple techniques. I think you’ll find they go a long way toward ensuring the optimal execution of the decisions you make.


Quint Studer

Quint Studer, CEO

Studer Group

Click the link for a video going into more detail on this topic. Blog Response

MORE Skills for a New Economy: A Message to All Employees

March 2, 2011

(Part Two of Two)

In Part One, we discussed the need for employees to take ownership of their roles and the organization’s mission for all to gain sustainable excellence in the challenging times ahead. We explored ways employees at all levels can show their value across the organization and own their own development.

Here are a few more tips for leaders to share with staff members as they strive to become more valuable (and valued) in today’s tough new economy:

Understand the Connection between Time and Money.

Think about ways to be more effective and help others. When building a budget, consider all factors—including salary (often the biggest expense in a project) and time to complete. Be aware that as a project drags past its deadline, the chance it will go over budget increases.

Here are a few ways to be a good steward of your organization’s resources:

  • Get in the habit of quantifying. Avoid words like “a lot” and other generalizations. Get very specific and require others to do the same. Countless hours (and endless money) can be spent on activities because of reports that there were “a lot” of requests. When we take time to quantify the requests, we often find that “a lot” really means just a few people.
  • Keep things simple. When projects get too complicated, they either don’t get completed, or they result in considerable overruns on budget and missed deadlines.
  • Get the to-do list reviewed regularly. Focus on tasks that connect to the organization’s business goals; reduce the busywork.
  • Get timelines, a deliverables schedule, and a budget on everything you do. This is step one on any project. Creating a framework in the beginning forces an employee to think things through and often eliminates READY, FIRE, AIM problems. Report back regularly as to whether the project is on time and on budget.
  • Learn to ask, “How will we measure results?” Asking this question in the beginning allows us to really evaluate whether the project is worthwhile. It keeps employees from starting dead-end projects with no value…and allows us to showcase successful projects for a nice win.
  • Don’t confuse activity with progress. Focus on what matters. Twenty percent of the work creates 80 percent of the results. Can you move that number?
  • Give regular updates on ongoing projects. Something may have changed, or someone may have a new idea to make it better. Be proactive to stay on course.
  • Review processes regularly to make sure they don’t need updating. Continue to re-evaluate the way things are done and search for improvements. Don’t fall into habits.
  • Ask, “Is there something I do that could be outsourced?” An employee should let leadership know if there is a part of his or her job that the company could do more quickly, more efficiently, or less expensively by outsourcing. In the long run, an employee who thinks like this will show more value to the organization and will soon be on his or her way to bigger and better things.
  • Learn to put the well-being of your team over your own comfort. Think, If it were my money on the line, my future at stake, what would I do?

Remember, Communication Is Everything!

Work to create an infrastructure whereby information can flow. Then, do everything possible to help effectively move that information through the process.

Here’s how:

  • Communicate early and often. It will increase the odds of success exponentially.
  • Be more than an e-mailer. Sometimes it’s best to pick up the phone. It builds relationships. Plus, real conversations spark new ideas, and too much back and forth over e-mail may slow down the process.
  • Share information anytime you can. Ask yourself, What do I know and who else can benefit from it?
  • Think strategically about your e-mail CC line. There’s a delicate balance between keeping busy people in the loop and overwhelming them with too much (unnecessary) information. When copying someone on an email, be sure to let the recipient know what is expected. 
  • Reach out to others. Set aside a few minutes each week to reach out to people you don’t see that often. It creates goodwill and is the first step in collaborating in a meaningful way.
  • When asking for help, give a timeline. It helps busy people know how to sequence their projects.
  • Be clear. It eases anxiety. Before hitting “send” on an e-mail correspondence, review the note to make sure all the questions are answered and there is clarity in the letter.
  • Report the good and the bad. We can learn so much from mistakes. Mistakes help pinpoint areas where we need to get better and create an internal sense of urgency.

Tough times are ahead, and we need to be owners of ourselves and our organization, not renters. Show value. Actively seek personal development opportunities. Maximize profitability. Communicate. Standards have never been higher—and more public—so now is the time for employees to strive for excellence at every level, every time.