During the pandemic, medical professionals didn’t have the luxury of working from home or keeping social distance the way other professionals did. They also experienced enormous pressure taking care of patients with initially no existing “play book” or comprehensive knowledge of how to treat patients with COVID-19. And they dealt with all of this while also juggling medical supply issues and so much more.
The medical industry and hospitals, in particular, operate in a high-pressured environment with virtually little to no room for error. Coupled with the lessons from COVID-19 and in order to prepare for future emergencies, hospitals are looking to implement a cultural change to one that encourages high-performance, continuous improvement, and clear communication.
Advancing Patient Safety Necessitates a Positive Culture
Last week at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Patient Safety Congress, participants of the National Steering Committee for Patient Safety made public the Declaration to Advance Patient Safety. In the declaration, they highlighted guidelines aimed to improve patient safety while focusing largely on the culture in the organization.
Patricia McGaffigan, RN, vice president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and IHI senior sponsor for the NSC stated: “Safety is a system property, and it is important for us to keep in mind that even if we are focusing on specific projects such as reducing infections, there are many factors that influence whether that work will be successful. Those factors are grounded in the culture and the tone that leaders set in their organization.”
She continued to elaborate on the cultural importance by emphasizing how culture encourages safety. “We know that leaders who are committed to safety are focused on building the conditions, experiences, and workplace considerations such as culture that encourage trust and transparency, as well as ensuring the physical and psychological safety for everyone who is a part of the organization.”
Culture seems to be the cornerstone of patient safety and is becoming more of a priority in the medical industry. A unique way to build a culture that fosters trust and transparency lies in creating a cultural shift through the sharing of information, where team members dedicated to a common goal benefit from learning about each other’s successes and failures. By learning from each other, hospital professionals create a greater impact and perform better while eliminating the repetition of mistakes.
How Technology Can Shift Hospital Culture
There is a lot of talk in corporate America about leveraging existing data within an organization but there is little talk about leveraging data that resides in the minds of experienced employees. Today, new technology that is grounded in AI and machine learning can leverage the knowledge that resides in the minds of hospital professionals and can share that knowledge throughout the organization.s The process of continuous improvement, facilitated by technology, enhances clear communication amongst team members and shares invaluable knowledge to create an ongoing culture of learning and improvement.
Eliminating the Silo Effect
All too often in both corporations and hospitals, departments operate in their own silo. It is rare that knowledge is shared across an entire organization creating a workforce of collaboration. As a result, departments make decisions based on partial knowledge and don’t have access to the entire picture. The fluidity of lessons learned, shared throughout the hospital, provides transparency and insight to make better, more informed decisions.
A Culture of Accountability
As hospital employees add the lessons they learned on the job – whether positive or negative – they are creating open communication amongst their team members and taking accountability when an action could have been improved and what they would do differently in the future. Taking accountability enables team members to learn from them and creates a culture of learning, responsibility, and leadership.
The Absence of Blame
The absence of blame is a fundamental aspect of a cultural transformation. The objective is to learn from every mistake and help others avoid repeating them—not to assign blame. Ultimately, lessons learned have an opportunity to become actionable data if employees feel comfortable and safe enough to share them in an environment that discourages blame.
For many businesses, this approach represents a major shift in how they view human error, inspiring a shift away from punitive reactions. Shared knowledge among team members has proven powerful enough to change an entire corporate culture, shaping it into one more likely to foster continuous improvement and create excellence.
For hospitals to ensure high-levels of patient safety, which depends heavily on hospital culture, the medical industry will need to shift and focus on creating an environment that embodies trust, transparency, accountability, and communication so that team members feel they can work together no matter what lies ahead, making of course the patient first.