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leadership | Danny van Leeuwen Health Hats - Part 7

Noise

By Leader, Musician 2 Comments
Composer, John Cage said, “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.” As a change agent in healthcare I find myself filtering the noise. Noise can be a cacophony of voices or motion without much meat. I’m annoyed with the din and peeved at the duplication of efforts. In my jazz combo I listen to the noise. We’re student amateurs after all. I hear us struggling with technique on our instruments, anxious to keep our place in the roadmap of the tune, vulnerable and overwhelmed with lack of confidence. Buried in the noise are some inspiring licks. Fascinating – what might listening to the noise in healthcare do for us?

Magic Lever – Trust

By Leader, Consumer No Comments
Best health builds on trust. Trust in yourself, trust in your health team, trust among your team, and trust among the leadership of your health organization. Health is possible without trust, but best health is not. Trust is like the golden rule: simple, obvious, painstaking to attain. Trust contains self love, an open heart, self-confidence, vulnerability, fairness, humility, single-minded purpose, communication, risk. Best health is part genes, part environment, part right living, part luck. Much that can’t be controlled. Trust is somewhat controllable. Trust in yourself is marginally controllable.  I’m fortunate that I mostly trust myself. I feel like I’m trusting myself when in doubt about my choices I default to accepting my decisions and actions as right and good. I’m happy with 75% success. Doubt and regret take its toll. With MS I have to budget my energy carefully. Doubt and regret sap my energy. Trust in your health team is also somewhat controllable. I’m fortunate that I can select my health team members. Selecting some means rejecting others. I remember when I was grieving the loss of my son, Mike. I went through 3 grief counselors before I found one that I trusted and worked well for me. I felt lucky that I could find three. Many can’t. Although its been  years since Mike’s death, my grief counselor is a member of my health team and will always be. I trust him. I’m open to using his counsel when I need it. Trust among your health team can be elusive.  Fortunately, a team you choose is predisposed to trusting each other on your behalf-single-minded purpose. But when your team is a surgical team, a multi-disciplinary team, an inpatient team, a nursing home team, a rehab team, you have far less control of that team. They may or may not trust each other. Your advocate can be helpful in communication and single-minded purpose. A team that trusts each other will be more likely to focus on your best health, communicate with each other about you, be open to your uniqueness, and practice safely and kindly. As a leader, the most rewarding activity for me was building a team that trusted me and trusted each other. Once built, those teams did amazing work for you. The most distant trust is the trust among the leadership of the health organizations that care for you. Those organizations include clinics, hospitals, diagnostic centers, rehab facilities, home care … any organization serving you. Frankly, in my experience few health organizations are themselves healthy. The bedrock of a healthy organization is a leadership team that trusts each other. Trust within the leadership team is the same as trust for yourself: open heart, confidence, vulnerability, fairness, mission, communication, risk. Patrick Lencioni writes eloquently about organizational health. Read more in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. I have spent most of the last 20 years of my career as a change agent and choreographer. The heights attainable are directly related to organizational health, especially the trust within the leadership team. Sustainable best health of an organization is hard work and elusive, but hugely rewarding for customers, staff, professionals, and leaders. More about organizational health in future posts.

Magic Lever – Adherence to Health Plan

By Caregiver, ePatient, Clinician, Leader, Consumer 3 Comments
Unfortunately some providers call adherence to a health plan – compliance. This unhelpful label implies singular focus on the patient, as in “they aren’t compliant with taking their meds”.

The ability to develop and adhere to a health plan is probably the most complex magic lever of best health. Developing and adhering to a health plan involves studying population health; evidence-based best practice; collaborative relationships, behaviors, language, and alignment of the health team; standardized work flows with on-the-spot improvisation; electronic and non-electronic tools; leadership; and management of cultural and social habits and challenges. Setting up systems to make adherence more likely is challenging and labor intensive. The effort has to be worth the outcome.


Population health analytics – studies to predict those groups of people for whom adherence planning would yield the greatest benefit to health, experience, and cost. Evidence-based practice – adherence planning should be based on evidence – knowing it’s likely to do what the health team expects. Collaborative relationships, behaviors, language, and alignment of the health team – the intricate choreography with stars and cast who can speak to, understand each other, and work together for a common purpose. Standardized work flows with on-the-spot improvisation – adherence planning is largely production work repeated across groups of people. Yet each of us is slightly different and unique. Teams respond as people and circumstances change. Electronic and non-electronic tools – Adherence is not a point in time, but occurs and adjusts over time. Well meaning and determined people need help. Leadership – Creating and maintaining adherence friendly systems needs inspired leaders. Dance without a director is just a rave. Management of cultural and social habits and challenges – A person who doesn’t get a lunch break can’t take a mid day medication with food. A single parent with several children depending on public transportation can find it difficult to make a physical therapy appointment three times a week. Sensitivity to such challenges and public policy advocacy can increase the likelihood of adherence.
In short, adherence is serious work for everyone. It is not compliance.

Health IT 2013 – Turning vision into reality

By Caregiver, ePatient, Leader, Consumer No Comments
How will health IT make a difference a year from now? Please see the HIMSS blog carnival link for many visions. As we look to the recent past and into the future, the possibilities of health IT are staggering. While visionaries and innovators plot their course, let’s think for a minute about the boots on the ground – what does it take for possibilities to be integrated into the lives of consumers and the work flow of professionals? After all technology serves people – their interactions, relationships, needs, and wants – to attain best health. Early adopters, such as myself, flock to new technology, as do agencies seeking to increase volume and productivity, and businesses tapping into the next big thing. Most people and most health organizations, however, are notoriously slow to change habits that integrate the possibilities, creating a dynamic tension between what is and what could be. Adding to this tension is the generational difference between the young accustomed to and delighting in technology and the older ones hesitantly sticking their toe in.

I predict that 2013 will find an exacerbation of this tension with a demand for spiritual advisors, interpreters, change agents, and choreographers. Spiritual advisors help individuals identify and communicate their best health goals and help organizations stay focused on their mission – the technology vision has to accomplish something.   Interpreters translate and meld the diverse languages of stakeholders: varied educations, lifestyles, personal and world view, wonk and Luddite, best health and mHealth focused. Change agents guide health teams and organizations through rapid improvement. Choreographers design, align, and adjust the dance of cultural transformation for the stars (consumers) and supporting cast (health team). Do we value these skills as we plot the future?

Errors in Electronic Medical Records

By ePatient, Clinician, Leader, Consumer No Comments
I’m concerned about errors in electronic medical records. I love my technology, I’m an early adopter. I participate in several national initiatives bridging the consumer and health technology – HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society)  eConnecting with Consumers Committee, Society for Participatory Medicine, the federal Automated Blue Button InitiativeTIGER (Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform), Patient Adherence Workgroup. I have a PHR (Patient Health Record) through Microsoft Health Vault and have enrolled in patient portals for all my physicians who have one. What worries me is the quality of the data in those systems. As a nurse, quality improvement expert, informaticist, leader, and  consumer, I know the opportunities for errors in data. Databases and electronic information are only as good as the information in them.  We all have our stories about frustration with erroneous data in our credit reports and how difficult it is to fix it. Health care data is the same only there’s more of it. Clinicians are challenged to correct mistakes in electronic data. Here is an article about clinicians correcting electronic data mistakes. As consumers expect and receive more and more access to their electronic health data, they will question the quality of some of that data. How will they be able to correct it? Correcting electronic data is complex and labor intensive. Here is an article about consumers correcting their records. Do any of you have experience with errors in your medical record, electronic or paper? Please share.

Best organizational health – recovery

By Leader 2 Comments

 

Individual best health depends on organizational best health. I spent a valuable portion of my professional career working in behavioral health. Organizations and individuals all suffer tragedies from time to time.  Many similarities exist between organizational improvement and personal recovery. For example, an addicted person follows a longstanding behavior without question. The behavior affects the addict negatively, even tragically, but definitely results in poor performance.  Resistance to change is fierce. The addict will not be forced to change. When the addict perceives the hopeless of the addiction, usually in a heightened state of collapse and despair, he or she becomes open to exploring new behavior patterns and significant belief systems become rearranged, thus creating positive change and subsequent improvement. Paradoxically, hope evolves from despair or surrender. Healing occurs first in the spirit, then in the mind and last in the body.

When an organization suffers a tragedy, it also recovers first in spirit, then in the mind and finally in the body. An organization recovers by rebuilding its spirit (mission) by embracing and focusing on its mission in all areas of operation. Next it strengthens the mind (leadership) by rebuilding coalitions, aligning collaborations, and rounding to maximize employee and patient experience.  Finally, it heals the body (staff, processes and systems) by mindfully involving all stakeholders.
Have you experienced organizational recovery? How has it recovered?

Releasing the Inner Improviser

By Caregiver, Clinician, Leader 2 Comments

Best health includes improvisation in the relationship between health professionals and those in their care. One picture of improvisation is discretion to customize response and interaction and go off script and track with each individual’s or families journey. Yet the capacity of health professionals to remain up-to-date in their knowledge, compliant with practice and regulation, and productive while still able to be kind and improvise approaches possessing a superpower. As Kate commented yesterday, other knowledge workers – teachers – have the same challenges.

What conditions release the inner improviser?  Let’s consider a few: clarity of purpose; trust and team dynamics; predictability and responsiveness of  systems; and ability to learn from the improv: fix what seems broken.

Clarity of purpose can be mission, focus on the task at hand, or even clear boundaries. Every organization I’ve worked for had a mission statement. St. Peter’s Health Care Services (SPHCS) in Albany, NY, was committed to being a transforming healing presence in the communities we serve. Like the golden rule, easy to say, tough to do. Difficult decisions at SPHCS often included explicit consideration of the mission.  Focusing on the task at hand is mindfulness. As in right now the task at hand is pain relief, teaching, mobility, whatever. Not my co-worker, not the next person who needs me, not Dancing with the Stars. Concentration. Zen. Finally, improvisation occurs within boundaries – knowing the tune. For health workers the tune is policies and procedures, regulations, standards of practice.

Trust and team dynamics. Sustaining kindness and improvisation without feeling trust in yourself and your team truly IS superpower. Good team dynamics are healthy relationships – role clarity, communication that greases the constant shifting and movement of the day’s flow, re-prioritization, and mutual helpfulness.

Predictability and responsiveness of  systems used by your team –  workflow, supply chain, information systems. Knowledge workers create work arounds when systems don’t work quite right. They ingeniously seek a state where they can accomplish their daily tasks productively. Disruption of these systems draws valuable energy away from kindness and improvisation.

If all the stars are in alignment and staff feels able and empowered to improvise, we are idiots if we don’t learn and fix. Some proportion of improv is kindness and some is in response to something that is broken. Often both. Lord, I feel another post coming on.

I contend that the most important job of leaders – the people who supervise those who touch the public – is to nurture the environment of kindness and improvisation. Nurture the environment and model the behavior.

Improv and Health Leadership

By Caregiver, ePatient, Clinician, Leader, Consumer 7 Comments

Why improv and health leadership? Health experience is unique, of the moment, a journey. A different possible riff every moment.

The patient, client, consumer (let me use the term consumer for now) expects safe, quality, kind, empathetic care and service from professionals and their organizations-it’s a given. Even when safe, quality, and kind are present the health journey can be a very rough road. The challenge for the professional and support staff is to maximize the ability to know and relate to consumers as individuals and respond to the roadblocks, detours, potholes of that journey. 

The compliments my peers hear about health care are not usually about saving a life, successful surgery, hand washing. Rather it’s about the housekeeper who brought coloring books to the child; it’s about the nurse who knew the child’s passion for Ninja Turtles and brought a Ninja Turtle balloon to the bedside or exam room; it’s about the doctor who called the family on her day off; it’s about the registrar who found a private space for a mother to breast feed a non-patient child. These leverage the whole experience positively.

The relationship between professional caregivers and consumers includes constant improv-discretion to customize response and interaction and go off script. Yet the capacity of caregivers to stay up-to-date in their knowledge, compliant with practice and regulation, and productive while still able to improvise approaches superpower.

How can professionals and support staff tap their inner superpower without the intentional complicity of their leaders? Health leaders model and create the conditions that cultivate and learn from this improv. More about those conditions in the next blog.