Remember Why You Do It

Mother and Child in Pediatric Office

Every now and then we need to step back and remember why we are putting all of this effort into culture transformation and process improvement. When I lose sight, I think back to four years ago when my youngest son was born and I felt the impact of improvement work from the patient perspective. Now I would like to share that experience with you.

It’s 10:30 pm and I am sitting wide awake in my newborn’s hospital room wondering if I will ever be able to take him home. It seems like we have been here forever and nobody is telling me anything; I am not even sure how serious my son’s condition is!  I feel frustrated and powerless, so I just keep watching my baby from the rocking chair next to his incubator. He looks so small and alone; I just want to pick him up and hold him. 

Just a few days later, I am in another hospital room, this time I am the patient. There is a whiteboard mounted on the wall that has my nurse’s name and phone number listed, along with my plan of care. It tells me that before I can be discharged, I will need to be able to do a few specific things, like keep my body temp at 98.6 degrees and walk on my own – and each time I accomplish one of these the nurse will check it off.

Because my caregivers were very transparent with my plan of care, I did not experience the feelings of frustration and powerlessness that I did when my son was admitted. I was able to have a much more positive outlook about my stay, and ultimately, I believe I was discharged sooner than if I had not understood the plan of care.

No patient or family member should experience the feelings of frustration and powerlessness that I did in my son’s hospital room, but the fact is many do.

As a customer of the healthcare system I want to know the status of my (or my family member’s) condition; what is the treatment plan, what are the goals?  Supplied with this information, I don’t feel like I am in the dark and it helps to ease my worries.

The difference between the two experiences shows the importance of putting the patient (or the customer) first. I am quite sure that the nurses and the doctors had a perfect understanding of what progress my baby boy needed to make before he was discharged. I am willing to bet that they were keeping a close eye on his progress and even documenting everything very precisely, so why were they not sharing that information with me?

One of The Shingo Model’s guiding principles is “Respect for Every Individual.” This means showing respect for nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff as well as for the patients and families.  The second hospital did a much better job of showing respect for every individual. Having all of the information posted on a whiteboard meant that I, as the patient, did not have to ask for as much information, and that the nurses caring for me did not spend as much time searching for answers to my questions. It also meant that everyone was on the same page. This also reduces the chance of communication errors that could result in rework or even major mistakes like medication errors.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, I decided to share my feelings about my negative experience both here, in this blog, and with the hospital. I received a canned response from the hospital with a general apology. Maybe they will not use the information that I provided them as an opportunity for improvement, but I hope they do. There are many healthcare organizations out there who would be genuinely appreciative of the customer feedback and would jump at the opportunity to improve. These organizations are the ones that Catalysis works with every day through our networks and learning experiences; the ones that realize that they must improve to survive as the industry changes.

To make a long story short, thank you to all the healthcare systems out there who are working to put the patient first!

If you are looking to re-energize your lean journey join us at the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit or download one of our free whitepapers.

Sara Thompson, Communications Manager



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