Like Money, Creativity and New Ideas Don’t Grow on Trees – Each year, more and more clinics are looking at ways to reduce cost, improve health outcomes, provide better coordinated care, provide alternative forms of care, and improve patient satisfaction. Honestly, the list can go on and on. If you are anything like me or many of the practice managers I have spoken to, the core of my days were often spent troubleshooting printers, helping a disgruntled patient, supporting my colleagues, working on tasks for an organizational sub-committee, providing direction to my employees and finding time to go to the restroom. Being creative with my team to improve various forms of care delivery pretty much fell into the abyss of tasks that were never completed. What happened when we were tasked in improving care coordination for our patients? It usually resulted in a very rushed and not well thought out project. In many cases, a few months down the line we realized we were missing a critical piece in the process and had to go back to the drawing board OR we would dump more work on other team members to get the job done (which often times resulted in staff turnover). Sound familiar? As I have worked with clinics in transforming the way they provide care, I have learned two very important lessons about sparking innovation in care teams to tackle the ever-changing healthcare environment.
Number 1: It is essential to make time for you and your teams to be creative. Let me repeat it again… it is absolutely critical for practices to make time for their care teams to be innovative in developing processes and procedures. Some of the highest functioning practices that I have spoken to or learned about, budget time each year to work with care teams in being creative in the way they deliver care. What does that look like? For some clinics it meant blocking time during normal operating hours or setting times after the clinic closed where teams could meet on a weekly or monthly basis (yes, dinner was provided for the afterhours team). Other practices would meet over the lunch hour or come in 30 minutes before clinic began to accommodate people’s schedules. Teams usually consisted of various roles and they were either nominated by the team or they volunteered. The projects they developed ranged from initiatives including payer or government program, or they were simply trying to figure out how to streamline a process. Providing a space and time for innovation often resulted in higher employee satisfaction, improved processes and procedures, increased outcomes and….**drum roll please** provider and care team BUY IN. Care teams who prioritized spending time on process mapping a procedure and building prototypes not only developed sustainable processes, but they also successfully implemented their projects because they were directly involved in the development, testing and execution.
I would encourage other practice managers and practice leaders to budget and schedule time for innovation and creativity. Make time in your Quality Improvement committees to look at ways to streamline processes and more importantly, make sure the right people are at the table.
Number 2: Tools like process mapping, affinity diagrams, and tactics utilized in Human Centered Design (an approach to problem solving, that develops solutions by incorporating the human perspective) are essential to facilitating creative process improvement in the clinic. It ensures that your time is utilized efficiently and that innovation is facilitated and moving towards a targeted goal. As a practice manager, process mapping and Human Centered Design are tools I only learned after I left the practice and began training as a Practice Transformation Facilitator. For those of you who are wondering how in the world do you get training on these tools without changing jobs (like me), there are a couple of ways you can do that.
Several great resources can be found online, like IDEO.org, a nonprofit that provides various trainings and tools on Human Centered Design, as well as IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) who also offer excellent Quality Improvement resources. HealthTeamWorks also has an in-person and virtual trainings for Facilitating Quality Improvement. We also offer to directly work with clinics and practice managers in facilitating creative environments within the practice. In some cases, Practice Transformation Facilitators provide one on one training to practice managers on various tools to develop and improve clinic performance, while in other cases Practice Facilitators come to practices and facilitate an innovation session with the care team.
Learning about these resources and setting up a time with your team to improve a process is a great way to gain further experience in facilitating creativity and an important part of implementing sustainable practices in an ever everchanging healthcare environment. It’s important to harness and advocate for that time to not only provide better care for our patients but also self-care to our care teams.
For any questions regarding services provided by HealthTeamWorks around innovation please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for my blog next blog titled “PDSAs Are Not Comparable to Root Canals.”