We love it when we see healthcare leaders who likewise base their actions on irrefutable and lasting values and principles.
One such example is Dr. Eric Dickson, the CEO of UMass Memorial Health, who we recently interviewed again on our "Habitual Excellence" podcast.
Another example, who we've just read about in the press, is Marc Boom, MD, the CEO of Houston Methodist. Houston Methodist was the first hospital system in the U.S. to institute a principled, values-based vaccination mandate for staff (an idea we supported strongly).
This article caught my eye the other day (hat tip to Chris Burnham, from KaiNexus, actually for sharing it):
The mandate was announced in March of 2020, but the internal communication to staff that laid the groundwork started much earlier:
"As early as June 2020, Houston Methodist leaders were discussing vaccines in-depth during town hall meetings, including the status of vaccines and timelines from drugmakers, safety and immune responses. "We laid that groundwork week after week, and shared studies for transparency and education," says Dr. Boom...
"We were saying to people, 'Once they're authorized, shown to be safe, used in enough people and widely available, you should anticipate that we will mandate these just like we mandate flu vaccination,'" says Dr. Boom. "
The focus on communication and education is something we also saw at Legacy Health in Oregon, as shared in their December webinar.
There was a lot of attention, including news coverage, both favorable and critical. But Dr. Boom wasn't fazed, since he was confident that his decision was true to values and principles:
"We already have a values-based culture and now this builds on that culture — one that is even more patient-centric and one where people know when it comes to what it takes to protect patients, we are unwavering and unyielding. We will not bow to external pressure when we know the right thing to do," says Dr. Boom.
The article covers other key points including the fact that "178 full-time or part-time employees out of 24,947 workers did not get fully vaccinated or were not granted an exemption or deferral."
That's just 0.7% of their workforce. Fears of mass resignations or mass firings generally didn't turn out to be true.
The article also states an interesting truth... that real-time improvement can be messy.
As you learn more, as we've done many times during this pandemic, you'll make new decisions. We've learned, for example, that we don't really have to wipe down mail or take out containers with disinfecting wipes. We've learned that masks are indeed helpful and, we've continued to learn (especially with the omicron variant) that N95 or KN95 masks are indeed MUCH more useful than cloth masks.
We learn, we evolve, we grow. That's not "flip flopping."
Dr. Boom said:
"Data will evolve, new data will emerge, and we need to change our mind with the data. If you lack that nuance, you start losing trust because you see it as flip-flopping. We'll follow the data wherever it goes."
The same thing happens during what we call "Real Time Problem Solving" (RTPS). When there's a safety incident, for example, the team needs to respond as immediately as possible (in "real time"). We don't want to wait (or can't wait) because our inaction (or waiting for more data) might put more people at risk in the meantime.
We do the best we can to "contain" a situation -- putting measures in place (even if temporary) to prevent another occurrence of that safety incident.
That doesn't mean we necessarily understand all of the details or that we understand the systemic root cause yet. But, we're driven to take action (based on principles including "nobody should get hurt at work (or during their care as patients)."
But, as more information comes in, as we observe the work and as we talk to more people, our understanding improves. If we think we now understand the real root cause, we might remove the temporary countermeasures to put better solutions and more-effective prevention in place.
Those changes don't mean we were "wrong" at first. We were doing the best we could... and then we evolve, learn, and grow as more information comes in.
That RTPS approach can seem messy, but it's effective. It's more effective than declaring, too early, that we "know" the answer -- especially if we then are tempted to dig in our heals because we don't want to be proven "wrong."
Scientific problem solving, either with a workplace injury or elements of our pandemic, means evolving and learning instead of being stubborn. Easier said than done?
What do you think of the article and about the Houston Methodist approach driven by Dr. Boom and others? What's your experience with the "messiness" of Real Time Problem Solving?