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Around the country there is often discussion about emergency room (ER) overcrowding. Realistically, not all ERs really get overcrowded. Down in Southwest Florida, however, they do.
Last season (known as late fall/winter), the area experienced a surge in population--and we experienced an even larger surge of patients coming into our ERs and hospitals.
This coming season, we are trying a different approach that we can build on through the season and throughout the year. This requires our health system and key community partners to provide a more coordinated approach to delivering healthcare in our community.
Healthcare delivery changes at a rapid pace. Is this positive or doom and gloom? For more than 20 years, I've attended conferences where speakers have said, "these are unprecedented times in healthcare." Really? Doesn't it really come down to our view and attitude toward continuously improving our organizations?
A few years back, I recall having discussions with colleagues about situations that at first seemed unfortunate.
Do you recall why you went into a leadership role? In my last job, I worked with Don Clement, M.D., former president of the medical staff at St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, who shared this on leadership:
"Summertime and the Fourth of July, outdoor BBQs, walking through the neighborhood, soaking up the sunshine. As we look forward to celebrating the anniversary of the founding of this great country on the Fourth, perhaps we should spend some time looking back and consider the one ingredient necessary for this monumental historical accomplishment. Recognizing the importance of fundamental leadership and its principles will help us appreciate how we can employ those same principles every day.
The decision to establish the independence of those 13 disparate colonies and embark on the creation of this nascent country rested on the leadership of many different individuals. Throughout the countryside and in the many small communities, the ability to impart the sense of vision and implement this move toward independence required a concerted effort with leadership at all levels. While that trait was integral to our nation's foundation, it is directly translatable to all of us throughout the workplace, particularly in our medical center.
We finally finished the "season" in southwest Florida, which saw population growth of around 1 to 1.5 percent and patient growth of more than 10 percent. While rounding, I cannot help but notice how hard everyone constantly works. While it is never said enough, I am so appreciative for all the support everyone provides toward better patient care and support of one another. It is great to hear stories on how much we support each other in order to provide the best care to those we serve. We are truly in this mission together. People really seem to know their "why" when you ask them.
Keeping this in mind, it is very important to ensure that burnout does not occur, and we have to watch after each other as we may not notice the signs when it happens to us.
For many years, I have been involved in process improvement activities. Our current health system uses Lean as our management system. We have a very strong team through Roger Chen's leadership.
In healthcare we are all familiar with the need to improve processes. If we really think about it, we could focus on improving more frequently. You ever notice in football games, there is a huddle just about every 30-60 seconds? The team is discussing ways to improve and move the ball down the field and into the end zone. They are not trying to heal people on their field! And of course there is the tradition, although not as frequent as 20 years back, when you see the crowd burst into "the wave," chanting "whooooah!" and moving in a coordinated sequence. How does this relate to our healthcare efforts?
As I paid more attention to this (probably more than one should analyze), it hit me that we have similarities in healthcare. In healthcare we have started huddling much more than years prior, discussing ways to support our patients and families, our colleagues and ourselves. We are essentially "moving care coordination down the field toward improved health."
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