38. Change!

It doesn’t take an extremely enlightened person to realize the challenges that hospitals are facing today.  They’re cutting staff.  They’re experiencing drops in demand.  They’re taking care of more non-paying patients.

Payer, patient, and government pressures are only increasing.  The solutions are diffuse and unpredictable.  Preparing for the future becomes much more difficult when preparing for tomorrow reigns in importance.  But we need to prepare for the many possibilities that tomorrow, next week, next year, and beyond hold.  Because one thing is for certain: we are unable to continue on our current path.  While health care likes to think that it deals with change on a continuing basis, it doesn’t do it particularly well.  And that needs to change.

Health care is responsible, in part (a significant part), for the gloomy forecasts of our economic future.  To think that this industry won’t be targeted to cut domestic spending is naive.  To think that hospitals won’t be significantly affected by economic ship-righting would be simpleminded.

In developing our strategy for adapting to change we not yet know, there are several principles we’re borrowing from a recent notable presidential campaign and the requisite transition planning.

1. Be realistic.  This isn’t going to be easy.  We know the mountain is tall and there’s nothing we can do as an individual health system that will put health care on the right track.  But we can set attainable, yet strenuous, goals.  Transparency to the Nth degree to improve patient safety.  Reducing organizational waste to enable flexibility with our dollars.  Empowering front line employees and providers to solve problems.  It’s a laundry list but it’s time to get the house in order.

2. Bring people together.  Enable all organization stakeholders to meet and work together.  No more separate units within the organization.  We are one.  The interactions will lead to innovation and problem solving like nothing we’ve ever seen.  It will also improve our culture.

3. Be consistent.  Our approach, our message, our solution will be consistent with making the organization ready for whatever will come.

4. Be inspirationally optimistic.  There’s no doubt we’re in for some hurt.  A health policy solution that works (read: lower costs) means our bottom line will be (optimistically) flat or (a little more optimistically) rising only slightly.  But if we prepare now–and do it correctly–our exposure will be minimized.  The real optimism comes with preaching a message of preparation.  We can and will succeed in our efforts of creating the ultimate in flexible hospitals.

5. Execute.  Easier said than done.  Also required.  Get the right people on board (everyone).  Get the right people in positions where they can be effective (everyone).  Give them the empowerment they need to get things done (everyone).

Principle #38: Change is most definitely coming.  We can either be the recipient of change or we can lead it.  It is time to prepare.

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