Improving Healthcare is a Global Phenomenon

Posted on by Elaine Mead

Earth City Lights Bokeh - Europe

The Eurovision Song Contest has grown to be a phenomenon which you either love or hate, but whatever your views, it is amazing to see how it has become a symbol of a shared endeavour across the world.  I know that the music might be a bit too pop, the costumes a bit crazy, and the voting still a bit political but it is the extravagant coming together of cultures, with clear joy and expectation across the boundaries of countries, policies and religions which has fascinated me over the years. It seems there is a similar phenomenon with healthcare improvement.

There is a growing movement across Europe of leaders who have been intrigued to see the adaptation of lean methods to deliver operational excellence across the US health system.  Many of us have been inspired, not just by Toyota, but by those many brave leaders who have taken the idea of changing the whole culture of healthcare delivery and have made it their own. 

Here are some things that lean healthcare and Eurovision have in common:

Transcend Boundaries

Eurovision isn’t strictly geographic. The European Broadcasting Union, (EBU) who organizes the contest is made up of 73 member stations from more than 56 countries. In 2015, the EBU announced that in honour of the 60th anniversary of Eurovision, it had invited Australia to participate in the finals of the contest, and they have been there ever since! Illustrating the event is not restricted to European countries.

My experience of working with colleagues from the US, the UK and now across Europe is that we are not so very different.  Yes, there might be some differences in our languages or models of care.  Sure, the different approaches by government, their commitment to a proportion of national investment, and the pressures of demography on various systems is clear, but there is one thing that I see and hear wherever I go – the current models of care are no longer sustainable.

Across Europe, some countries, and by that I mean their governments, are beginning to wipe away the clouds of denial that suggest that everything will be fine if we simply do more of the same.  In England, UK the NHS Long Term Plan plan goes as far as saying  “Through developing their improvement capabilities, including QI skills and data analytics, systems will move further and faster to adopt new innovations and service models and implement best practices that can improve quality and efficiency and reduce unwarranted variations in performance.”

Shared Passion

The reason Eurovision has grown in popularity and geography is because the participants and the audience have a shared passion for music and the art of performance.

If we have learnt anything through our work of applying lean to healthcare, we have learnt that the step into the unknown is not for the faint hearted.  This work takes courage, resilience, and practice.  It requires leaders to let go of much they have learnt and even practiced as they have taken up these senior positions.  Adapting to a new way of working in a complex system already under pressure takes a certain type of courage and requires passion to pursue.

Shared Experiences

Eurovision is a social phenomenon that fosters community between a wide range of people who are all tuning in to see if Ireland will again come away as the champion.

So, it is important for us to come together to create environments that can inspire and support leaders in this endeavor to change healthcare, both through the Summit and the forums. This allows them to refresh their enthusiasm and spend time in a safe space with like-minded, passionate colleagues who are on the same journey, wherever they are, and whatever their native tongue.

Coming together at these events colleagues have the opportunity to share their experience and learn from each other.  Of course, all leaders are at different places on their organizational improvement journeys, but the huge benefit of coming together to learn, share, and commit to personal practice and development keeps us authentic in our endeavour.  I have been humbled at the ability for the most senior of leaders to be able to adapt ideas from other health systems, in other countries, to their local circumstances, and to provide encouragement and suggestions to their colleagues.

There is much work to do.  There are many millions of people across Europe and the world who are dependent upon us to change healthcare for the future.  To deliver not just operational excellence, but modern, affordable health and care services that will fit and be sustainable to meet the needs of future generations, regardless of the language or the politics.

Join us in London.  It will be fun.


Elaine Mead, European Faculty


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