3 ways to fight 'improvement fatigue'

Healthcare leaders have a lot to accomplish as the industry moves from a volume-based model to a value-based one and patient safety and care quality become more important than ever, but providers must safeguard against "improvement fatigue" during this process, futurist Ian Morrison writes for Hospitals & Health Networks.

"Improvement fatigue" is Morrison's term for the strain that hospitals and hospital systems' constant emphasis on these new processes and goals puts on workers who still have to get their day-to-day jobs done. 

To prevent performance improvement burnout, Morrison recommends healthcare leaders take several steps, including:

Increased emphasis on physician leadership: Currently, Morrison writes, far too few physicians are prepared to lead the kind of transformation underway in healthcare. Retooling clinical care with higher performance in mind is a process that requires physicians in a leadership role, but they often lack the experience to do it effectively. Some organizations, such as Mayo Clinic, address this problem with two-person physician-administrator leadership teams, but organizations must find a way to attract and help physicians attain leadership roles. 

Institutional support: Healthcare has already demonstrated its capacity for broad improvements on issues such as central line infections, excessive readmissions and unnecessary elective C-sections. To support clinicians, Morrison writes, healthcare leaders should take pointers from successful initiatives such as the Michigan Hospital Association's Keystone Project and look to experts and best practices that provide the level of infrastructure, training and support from the top necessary to make those changes happen.

Focus on the industry's humanitarian mission: Getting frontline clinicians on board is non-negotiable if hospitals want to combat improvement fatigue, Morrison writes; even a hospital that has quality leadership and institutional support will not achieve that goal without enthusiasm from frontline staff. "If you can look clinicians in the eye and say that change, and their help with that change, will be better for the patients, families and communities you serve, they will be with you," he writes. "Connecting to noble purpose will help to overcome improvement fatigue."

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