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What might result in the worst outcomes?

Imagine what might lead to the worst outcomes in healthcare. It doesn’t actually have to happen but it might help to identify what could go wrong before it ever does. In most cases it will be a failure to communicate.

Ineffective hand-off communication is recognized as a critical patient safety problem in health care; in fact, an estimated 80% of serious medical errors involve miscommunication between caregivers during the transfer of patients. The hand-off process involves “senders,” those caregivers transmitting patient information and transitioning the care of a patient to the next clinician, and “receivers,” those caregivers who accept the patient information and care of that patient. In addition to causing patient harm, defective hand-offs can lead to delays in treatment, inappropriate treatment, and increased length of stay in the hospital. Joint Commission Perspectives

Much of what might make a difference needs those involved in whatever role to do basic things.

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Do you use your powers of observation?

Healthcare professionals and doctors in particular need to be observant. Many, if most are observant because it can make the difference between an early diagnosis and an early demise. I remember an ambulance crew saving a patient’s life not only by their rapid transport of a confused suicidal patient but because they noticed and reported the white mark around the lip of the glass she had been found drinking from. It turned out it was soluble aspirin and the patient was quickly diagnosed with salcylism.

The same powers of observation can be used to find new solutions or perhaps better solutions to common problems. Healthcare professionals are in contact with patients more than any policy maker or bureaucrat. If history has taught us anything it is that the most valuable solutions to healthcare problems are likely to be generated by those who don’t dismiss small details.

In a sense, curiosity is the mother of innovation. People often think that they will struggle to be innovative because they feel that they are not creative. Creativity is certainly useful, but curiosity is really all that you need to get the process started. Curiosity about what’s going on around you, and then curiosity about how an idea would work in another context. So, turn off autopilot mode in your brain, and be curious! Paul Matthews

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Your greatest value is your ability to solve problems

As a healthcare professional you may face problems that require problem solving at the least and the generation of creative solutions ideally. How do you hone your creativity?

The results revealed that leadership clarity is associated with clear team objectives, high levels of participation, commitment to excellence, and support for innovation. Team processes consistently predicted team innovation across all three samples. Team leadership predicted innovation in the latter two samples, and there was some evidence that team processes partly mediated this relationship. The results imply the need for theory that incorporates clarity and not just style of leadership. For health care teams in particular, and teams in general, the results suggest a need to ensure leadership is clear in teams when innovation is a desirable team performance outcome. West et al

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Quitting work may be the best thing you can do

 

Do you quit work? At least until it’s time to be back in the office, clinic, shop or hospital? Are you constantly taking calls and texts from work even on vacation?

Recreational travel may increase creativity by relieving workers from stress, providing diversifying experiences and increasing positive emotions. Consequently, vacations may boost creativity, apparent in a greater variety (flexibility) and originality of ideas after work resumption. de Bloom  et al

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What did you expect yesterday?

As you walked through the front doors at work yesterday what were your expectations? Were you hoping:

  1. To serve to the best of your ability
  2. To learn something new
  3. To enjoy good company doing something meaningful
  4. To make a difference to someone
  5. To earn a big pay cheque
  6. To pass the time before home time
  7. Something else?

Which was it? How did you feel at the end of the day? How do you think those who interacted with you felt at the end of the day?

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Do you see how that happened?

You may face may challenges or have an unexpected outcome following your interaction with your customer, client or patient. As a healthcare professional these are opportunities to reflect on how an event unfolded, how you were feeling at the time and how you are feeling afterwards. Consider then how those emotions play out through the course of the day. Given that most  outcomes in healthcare are moderated by an interaction with a health professional it is important to ensure that the health professional is attuned to their inner world. We can’t change many things as providers of health services but we can look within.

Know what causes your negative emotions, and which types of feelings you face most often. When those emotions begin to appear, immediately start your strategy to interrupt the cycle. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull yourself away from negative thinking. Mindtools

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Is normal too thin?

Try this experiment. If you are tending to overweight ( Body Mass Index (BMI) 25 or over) then try to get to BMI 18.5 -24.9.  If you succeed people will decide you have lost ‘too much weight’  even when your BMI is in the middle of the normal range. If normal was defined as ‘what is most common’ then to have a ‘normal’ BMI is unusual and we may have become blind to normal so that what we perceive as ‘normal’ is not ideal. Rates of overweight and obesity are now at 60-70%.

In an Australian study on the public perception of body size the authors report that:

Overweight participants were also most likely to incorrectly identify themselves as a healthy weight (67 per cent, p<0.001), compared to 12 per cent of obese participants . The majority (89 per cent) of normal weight participants accurately identified themselves as being a healthy weight. Flanagan et al

Therefore it is not surprising that when people are challenged about their weight in healthcare they are reluctant to identify the issue as a problem.

Picture by Phil Gradwell

What do you notice?

Before making any changes that might improve outcomes where you work you have to notice things that don’t look quite right or that hint at a solution. I know someone who notices the tiniest details even when she is out shopping. She generates a huge number of ideas about how things could be improved sometimes with the smallest tweaks. Here’s an example. As a result she is the most successful person I know. You’d be lucky to have her on your side. I know I am. What did you notice about your office, clinic, shop or hospital today?

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Does parking stop doctoring

Imagine you have back pain. Your doctor suggests you need special scan. You have to travel an hour across town to get to the hospital where you have an appointment at 9 am. You take the morning off but hope you might get to work in the afternoon. It’s peak hour traffic as you arrive at the hospital. The queue to get into the car park stretches down the street. You join the line of cars and realise it’s now 8.45am. The X-ray department is a long walk from the car park. Just as you get to the entrance to the parking lot the attendant indicates that it is full and you have to try and get a spot on a side street. The chap in the car behind you is getting frustrated- are you waiting in the queue or trying to back out? It’s a one way street you can’t turn the car here. It’s now 9 am you are going to be late- not sure how late. You toy with the idea of just going home.

In November 2011, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal called hospital parking fees a barrier to health care, saying the charges amount to “parking-centred health care,” and recommended hospitals stop charging patients for parking. The editorial stirred up a debate in the media. The Ontario Nurses’ Association, for one, agreed with the recommendation and noted that many of its members could tell stories about patients who had avoided seeking care or had cut appointments because of high parking costs. Canadian Nurse

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Mobile phones aren’t allowed in the operating room.

Before a surgeon gets anywhere near a patient in the operating theatre he must wash his hands, put on a gown and gloves. He then drapes the patient and cleans the skin. As he makes his first incision there is no mobile phone on the table, he banishes all distractions and appreciates that the job isn’t over until he has sutured the wound. Whatever you do for a living how do you approach the job? If you adopted rituals would you perform better? Bacteria can destroy a surgeons work. What contaminates your work and how does that manifest in your results?

Picture by US Army Africa