3 steps to healthcare management that supports frontline workers

The healthcare industry's long-held "top-down" management model no longer suits the modern environment, and must be replaced with a new model that better supports frontline workers, argues a Health Affairs blog post.

John Toussaint (pictured right), chief executive officer of the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, is a well known advocate of empowering frontline workers, referring to healthcare workers in 2014 as "the most important people in the organization" because they deliver valuable care.

The management model that modern healthcare needs is similar to the "management by process" model pioneered in the 1980s by Edwards Deming, he writes. The framework for such a model centers on several key factors, including:

The "Plan-Do-Study Act" (PDSA) cycle: St. Paul, Minnesota's HealthEast uses the model to solve frontline problems as quickly as possible. The organization holds daily huddles involving frontline nurses and other healthcare workers to target problems. One such huddle identified missing equipment as a major time-waster, leading clinicians to develop a "supermarket" in which they stored vital equipment in taped-off areas and moved to resupply when they didn't see the equipment in those areas.

Model cells: The term "model cell" refers to an area in which care is completely overhauled, usually leading to a new set of responsibilities for those involved. For example, California's Palo Alto Medical Foundation, seeking to improve patient experience and reduce costs while competing with a well-known HMO, began model cell work in one of the foundation's clinics. This model cell phased out doctors' private offices, implemented two-minute morning huddles and developed two person doctor-medical assistant teams. 

Lean leadership: Lean management, a strategy that targets inefficiencies modeled after automobile production techniques, is increasingly popular among healthcare providers. Rather than using traditional classroom training for these techniques, Long Beach, California's MemorialCare has trained leaders in lean strategies through "visual management." This focuses on highlighting key performance metrics and teaching frontline staff to identify problems and solutions.  

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece