26 March 2015

Aligning the Board Room and the Operating Room

At its core, leadership is about helping a group of people with diverse skillsets and perspectives work together effectively. Generally, a team with a broader collective skillset is able to produce more valuable products and services than a more homogenous team. However, the realization of that added value almost always hinges on a leader’s ability to focus the team members’ diverse perspectives on a common goal. The more divergent perspectives a leader can align, the more value he or she can create; put simply, more difficult challenges yield greater rewards.

This concept was highlighted in a recent piece in the New York Times’ The Upshot column, titled “In Hospitals, Board Rooms Are as Important as Operating Rooms.” In the article, health economist and researcher Austin Frakt makes the case that the most significant hospital process improvements won’t come from a clinical team alone; instead, they develop by aligning the goals of the clinical and business leaders within a hospital. As the primary intersection between clinical leaders and the board of directors, CEOs and other senior leaders are uniquely positioned to bring about that alignment.

For obvious reasons, this is easier said than done. Besides the overall success of the hospital, clinical leaders and board members have few priorities in common. Boards, for the most part, are primarily interested in the facility’s financial health, and many members have little experience with the intricacies of the healthcare industry. Clinical leaders, on the other hand, are focused on the efficiency of the departments they oversee and the care and satisfaction of their patients. These issues are two sides of the same coin – an insolvent facility can’t function, and the link between reimbursement and patient satisfaction means quality of care directly affects the bottom line. The hallmark of a good leader is the ability to bridge this gap.

This means improving communication between the two teams, and – as the New York Times article makes clear – one of the best ways to do so is by borrowing management practices from the manufacturing and technology sectors. One of their most successful management practices is Kaizen, which Sheridan Healthcare has been helping hospital leaders implement for decades. Kaizen is particularly useful for improving communication between parties with different perspectives. As the article puts it:

“These management practices include eliminating inefficiencies and variations, fostering collaboration, setting targets and tracking progress toward them.“

Kaizen encourages a continuous stream of feedback from all stakeholders in a particular process. It helps eliminate waste from a process while ensuring the resulting improved process meets the needs and goals of everyone involved. The Times article highlights instances of Kaizen and other “lean” management techniques

reduc[ing] the time it takes between when a heart attack patient arrives at a hospital and when he’s treated, improving outcomes. Other work found good management is associated with better quality of care in intensive care units.”

Through a management technique like Kaizen, hospital CEOs and other leaders can facilitate the creation of streamlined hospital processes that meet the goals of physicians and other care providers, as well as the C-suite and board. This alignment of diverse skillsets and perspectives drives clinical, financial and organizational improvements for a hospital, simultaneously.

To learn more about Kaizen and how it’s been successfully implemented in the past, watch our video here.