Improvement Is Impossible Without Admitting Your Mistakes
Pretending that things can go back to the way they were - or that nothing has changed - won't help.
We're in the midst of a few crises. Some hospitals are still being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases - too often including their own clinicians. Others have shelves full of PPE waiting for coronavirus patients who will never come. Those in both categories are seeing and will continue to see increased cases of injuries caused by violence. They will see an uptick in patients who have been subjected to chemicals designed to disrupt respiratory function, which were deployed during a pandemic that disrupts respiratory function.
That's if we're lucky. That's if those in need seek out medical care at all.
Because, although patients' worries about getting routine medical treatment is down, it has not gone away. And, as long as coronavirus cases place a financial burden on nearly a third of patients beyond their ability to pay, it will not go away.
This will only be compounded if care providers shut their doors out of fear. We've seen one case so far, and we can only hope that it will be the last.
We can "only hope" because we're not a hospital operator. We're a vendor, a partner, and an adviser. So take some advice from us (since we've had the time to read news and scholarly articles while you've been occupied with the work of saving lives).
Assess Your Weaknesses
The current crisis has provided a unique and unwelcome gift, but a gift nonetheless. It has revealed a swath of vulnerabilities to healthcare and, specifically, its supply chain.
Many businesses do not see the writing on the wall until it's too late. And, because of the long-serving and institutional nature of healthcare, too often we forget that it is a business. As a business, hospitals can - and often do, as we discussed in this week's episode of Take 5 - fail.
The only way to prevent obsolescence is to take inventory of your current practices, then replace what isn't working. Don't double down on a failing strategy out of fear, momentum, or pride.
We've got to design the supply chain for the success of the entire industry, not the convenience of individual members. That doesn't just mean building a successful model for a healthcare system. That means building a model that can be implemented across the country.
Conveniently, we can look to other industries to see where they have been successful - and where they've struggled - to improve our chances of success.
Admit Your Mistakes
Key to a culture of innovation is empowering employees to make informed decisions. And that will inevitably lead to missteps. The most crucial part of the innovation process, however, is learning from those mistakes and creating new, informed decisions based on them.
Continuing to perform business as usual leads to no business at all. As this Harvard Business Review article makes clear: innovation must be fostered, but incompetence cannot be tolerated. Incompetence isn't a nice word, but defined as "lacking power to act with effectiveness," it's hard to deny how applicable it is to healthcare procurement, finance, and administration.
The good and bad news is that the greatest lack of effectiveness is at the policy level. If - as we've continued to report and is now echoed on STAT - "hospitals are busier than ever and going out of business," that betrays a fundamental mistake in the way hospital operation is designed. If we don't admit that, we can't fix it.
Redesigning healthcare is an overwhelming proposition. Lucky for you we provided some advice on how to take appropriate steps way back in this blog that boil down to the following:
Address Future Problems Now
There is evidence that, if you are visibly overcautious, your customers will reward you. But you have to manage that visibility.
Making progress with COVID-19 patients is great. Releasing them from care when they are still contagious and dangerous to your community is not great.
If you think we've made a mistake here or elsewhere, please reach out. We're dedicated to addressing our shortcomings. And, if it's safe, reach out to give somebody a hug today. It'll probably help you get through the next five minutes, and that's crucial, too.