Better outcomes require leaders to update their management styles

Hospitals' management systems are often left out of discussions about how to cut costs and improve outcomes, but they are a vital factor in such efforts, according to a Harvard Business Review blog post.

Goals such as readmission reduction and cutting emergency room wait times are an uphill struggle without an effective hospital management system, according to John S. Toussaint, (pictured right), CEO of the Thedacare Center for Healthcare Value in Wisconsin. Healthcare delivery is currently in transition between pay-for-performance and value-based models, Toussaint wrote, and management must make a similar shift, abandoning the outdated "management-by-objective" model.

The old model encourages individual system leaders to find somewhere to shift blame for issues rather than solving those problems, he wrote, citing the scandal within the Department of Veterans Affairs, in which leaders were rewarded for reducing wait times regardless of actual quality improvement, leading to the revelation that officials had manipulated wait-time data.

Instead, healthcare leaders need to transition to a "management-by-process" system similar to that of the Toyota Production System, according to Toussaint, in which leaders are intimately familiar with their frontline workers' workflow. This insight, he said, will allow executives to lead teams in making processes better and more effective, with standardized work governing most protocols. Under management by process, "managers and executives are not expected to fix problems," he wrote. "They are trained to facilitate problem solving by those that best know that work."

Toussaint has long advocated healthcare leaders manage in a way that empowers frontline workers, using methods such as lean manufacturing, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the blog post