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I am inspired. No, not by the great "collaborative" achievements of the United States Congress. Not even by the growing willingness among previously competing healthcare organizations to share ideas for improvement, as now value trumps volume, quality trumps productivity, and experience drives real dollars.
I have found my inspiration in those who are thinking small to make big improvements and have significant impact.
I have seen something happening that may get overlooked in the chaotic healthcare environment. In recognizing that "with experience, what matters most may very well be the littlest things," my inspiration comes from the efforts of individuals, teams and units willing to do more, try new ideas, research new practices or processes, and share what they find.
At Georgia Regents Health System's seventh annual Patient and Family Centered Care Conference last week, I was privy to this power of small ideas having a big impact. In an organization built on quality care, solid education and cutting edge research, another element was evident--the powerful voices of patient advisors.
More than 200 individuals give their time to the system on committees, boards and projects to help improve the care experience for all. Most of these are not sweeping strategic efforts, but direct decisions to make a change and make a difference.
For example, an active core of advisors reignited energy for a ceremony to recognize individuals identified as "Americas Top Doctors." They felt that with all the focus on care improvements, the physicians sometimes were left out and they wanted to make sure the physicians received acknowledgement for their work. It showed how the voices of patients can play out in small ways to do big things at all points of the care continuum.
I also was inspired during a recent visit to WellSpan Health in York, Pa. I sat in on an evening meeting and heard from front-line caregivers working with patient partners on real issues of process and experience improvement. This was part of their engagement in the Aligning Forces for Quality effort supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They shared examples of small decisions that would significantly influence the experiences of all engaged in the healthcare encounter.
I realized the power of thinking small when reviewing the recipients of the 2013 Patient Experience Grants announced this week via The Beryl Institute. These individuals and organizations have identified ways to find a small issue and drive a potentially big change. The broader community's awareness or perhaps even willingness to hear and see how these small ideas drive experience improvement is often missing in the equation. From coordinating care in patient-centered medical homes to including walking programs in rehab efforts, these small efforts at improvement may provide the biggest opportunities.
All too often in healthcare we shoot for and espouse the big idea, the broad accomplishment or the strategic achievement--yours truly is guilty of this. However, we should be very willing to--as the old proverb suggests--eat the elephant one bite at a time. To make a difference in the experience of patients, families and all in the healthcare setting, we should consider:
We must foster, encourage, support and engage in thinking small, for it may be the biggest thing we can do to improve the healthcare experience. I am inspired by those who see big potential in what they do each and every day.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., is president of The Beryl Institute, where he specializes in organizational effectiveness, service excellence and high performance in healthcare. Follow Jason @jasonawolf and The Beryl Institute @berylinstitute on Twitter.
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