Leadership support central to long-lasting hospital change

This year I had the privilege of interviewing many hospital and healthcare executives about leadership strategies and the challenges the industry faced in the wake of healthcare reform, Medicare regulations, consolidations and business initiatives. Although the topics differed, one theme emerged in nearly all of those discussions as well as other stories that FierceHealthcare covered in 2014:

Positive, long-lasting change can't and won't happen unless it comes from the top.

Toby Cosgrove's work at the Cleveland Clinic is one such example. His commitment to transform the organization's culture and put the patient at the center of its mission and vision is the main reason that the non-profit academic medical center is now a leader in improving the patient experience and patient satisfaction.

During my interview this fall with James Merlino, M,D., who will leave his position as chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic at the end of this year, he credited Cosgrove for making the 43,000 employees think of patients as valued customers. "If you don't have the support from the top person in the organization, driving it as a strategic initiative, nothing will change," he told me.

More recently, Michael Macht-Greenberg, Ph.D., vice president of patient access services at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, described Lahey's success with improving the patient experience for that very reason. It was because the organization's leaders were committed to improving patient access to care that he decided to take the job.

Senior leaders gave Bryce Berg, vice president of corporate administration for Molina Healthcare in Long Beach, California, the go ahead to revamp its account payable system and centralize its processes. The initiative has helped keep administrative costs down as the organization continues to grow.

A hand-hygiene study earlier this year found leadership commitment to hand-washing initiatives was essential to improve staff compliance rates. "The tone for compliance with infection control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management, and our study also found that executives aren't always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority,"  co-lead author Laurie Conway, R.N., a student at Columbia Nursing, said.

And Rudy Braccili Jr., executive director of revenue cycle services at Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Florida, credits the new leadership team at the organization for a complete financial turnaround that has kept the hospital from closing its doors. Leaders committed to new initiatives and a team-approach throughout the organization. "We don't believe in saying 'don't change, that's not the way we do it here,' because ... we need to change. The old way brought us to our knees," told me.

As 2014 comes to an end and you consider new strategies and initiatives for the upcoming year, remember that your full support is vital to their success.  Dympna Cunnane, organization development consultant and program director at London Business School, said it best in a recent leadership talk that hospital leaders must realize that they have a valuable part to play in how they interact with the people below them; both positive and negative atmospheres "will be replicated everywhere in the organization." --Ilene (@FierceHealth)

Related Articles:
Leading by example: Patient experience the Cleveland Clinic way
Patient experience: Personal philosophy, leadership drive improvement
Molina Healthcare's new centralized procurement operation saves time, money
Hand-hygiene compliance requires healthcare leader buy-in
Success story: Faced with closure five years ago, Florida hospital now in the black
The changing role of leadership in healthcare

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