The Great Plague in 14th-century Europe gave birth to the Renaissance, which ushered in a new age of advances in surgery, anatomy, physiology and medical research. As our society moves on after several years of a global pandemic, we’re at a similar moment of rebirth. To seize this moment in time to put the patient front and center in care delivery, healthcare leaders and clinicians must align on creating a revitalized delivery model that works for all patients.
Challenging healthcare orthodoxies
To breathe new life into our outdated care delivery system, healthcare leaders and clinicians need to drive the creation of a revitalized delivery model that works for all patients, not just those with greater means. This would be an enormous step toward correcting the blatant health disparities that made the pandemic disproportionately devastating for Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people.
What will it take for the healthcare system to embrace this opportunity and drive the next renaissance forward? It will take leaders like us. Here are three steps that will move us toward a revitalized delivery system.
1. Create a culture of ownership
To end health inequity, we must accept that we are responsible to all patients—especially the most vulnerable. The best way to promote this form of ownership is to focus on the shared values that drew us all to healthcare.
Physicians, advanced providers, nurses and administrators can unite around our common desire to help patients. As leaders, we can model this shift by putting patients at the center of our decision-making and setting similar expectations at all levels of the organization. The ultimate goal here is to empower our care teams to be the best they can be. I refer to this ownership mindset as a Culture of Brilliance, in which we each have a responsibility as providers to inspire and challenge each other.
Could this patient-first approach be dangerous in today’s tough fiscal landscape? Our experience across 500 practice locations suggests the opposite. We’ve found that doing what’s best for patients also benefits hospitals and clinicians. For example, our charitable foundation, Vituity Cares, holds pop-up clinics around the country to provide medical care for unhoused patients. Our clinicians, many of them battle weary from the years-long public health emergency, delight in ensuring that these extremely vulnerable patients receive vaccinations, wound care and other basic services. Many clinicians have formed trusting relationships with their “regulars,” reducing the stigma these patients feel in healthcare settings and paving the way for a healthier future.
2. Engage clinicians in strategic planning
When it comes to redesigning care delivery, we leaders can’t afford to ignore the expert perspectives of our clinicians. Physicians, advanced providers and nurses see firsthand the barriers patients face in accessing care. We would be wise to identify and enlist clinician champions in both our strategic planning and targeted change initiatives.
For example, if clinical leadership were concerned about ED recidivism, they could invite their front-line teams to collaborate on solutions. An example of this in action at Vituity is our ED Throughout Collaborative. The post-pandemic environment continued to contribute to struggles with throughput due to rising patient volumes and critically low staffing levels. To solve this, several Vituity practice locations participated in this initiative and posted impressive improvements (as high as 15%) in TAT-D (turnaround time to discharge). These sites focused on what they could control and successfully navigated barriers by innovating and adapting their existing processes to the new resource landscape.
3. Invest in front-line innovation
Because providers see access challenges up close, they often have simple but powerful ideas about overcoming these barriers. The most cost-effective way to redesign healthcare is to empower clinician innovation. Healthcare organizations often achieve a high ROI when investing time and resources in promising provider-led projects.
In 2022, Vituity relaunched its Electronic Quality Improvement (eQI) tool to 44 hospital and emergency medicine practice locations. This tool surveys patients either the day after they are discharged from the hospital or on their second day in the hospital. It asks three standard questions and provides the opportunity for the patient to leave a comment about their provider. Overall, eQI sites achieve larger gains in patient experience scores than their counterparts. In the past year, eQI has led to more than 136,554 patients surveyed, with 72% reporting positive sentiments.
A renaissance demands courage
Speaking out against established orthodoxies is never easy or comfortable. We can expect resistance from both within our organizations and the wider healthcare industry. However, if brave scientists, artists, scholars and philosophers hadn’t raised their voices in opposition to the status quo, the Renaissance might never have come to pass.
We’re now faced with a similar window of opportunity. For the benefit of our most vulnerable patients, let’s not miss this once-in-a-century moment to effect sweeping change and usher in an age of enlightenment.
To read more about Dr. Tomlinson’s perspectives on clinical leadership and healthcare innovation, please click here.