As 2015 begins, many of us are contemplating New Year’s resolutions. Has overeating, overspending, or watching too much TV become habits which, if continued, could lead to seriously bad consequences? The resolution to do something better in 2015 may be a promise to eat more raw vegetables, to put part of our paycheck in savings each month, to exercise each morning or simply to get eight hours of sleep each night.
It is impossible to move forward with commitment and zeal without a clear idea of what elements from the past need improvement. The more aware we are of what has not worked, the more we can create an effective plan to reach our desired goals.
Making the impossible possible
An interesting and-well documented characteristic of human beings is that once a goal is set, the likeliness of achieving it increases dramatically. For example, in the 1940’s, the fastest time a human could run a mile was documented to be 4:01 minutes. Experts said that the human body had physical barriers that made it not only dangerous, but also impossible to break this record. Written accounts stated that people had tried for over a thousand years to break this time, even adding charging bulls or other dangers behind the runner to increase their motivation to do the “impossible.”
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running a mile in 3:59.4. His goal was not just to run fast, but to exceed a stated and specific benchmark. Less than a year after Bannister’s accomplishment, the previously insurmountable 4-minute mile barrier had been broken by numerous other runners. Now, it is a common occurrence!
For Roger Bannister to do what was considered impossible, without any proof that it could be done, he needed a foundation to create a vision for himself. This essential foundation consisted of clear data on the time he was trying to surpass, what new goal to aim for. He shattered the barrier, proving that it was indeed possible.
In order to move forward, you must understand your current situation by evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, your external challenges and your internal problems. Only when this foundation is clearly understood is it possible to set new goals, to push beyond these limitations. Once the clearly-defined goal is set, a neurological pathway in our brains called the reticular activating system (RAS), filters what information to focus on and what to delete to achieve this goal. The new mission, based on a clear and defined past, influences what the RAS filters out and what needs special attention to help you achieve your goal, things which otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Setting hospital goals
The process of establishing a standard of excellence in a hospital requires the same as goal-setting strategies that Roger Bannister used.
1. Evaluate your hospital’s current situation.
For example, let’s say your hospital’s goal is to reduce wasted resources. Do you have information to show where waste occurs in energy usage, material expenses, patient harm, or excess use of antibiotics? How can you involve your staff in an energetic endeavor to understand and exceed their current “4-minute mile”?
2. Define specific short and long-term goals, the benefits of each, and the actions you will take to achieve them.
Using the same example, what short term goals would you set in 2015 to help you reach a new level of excellence in 3-5 years? Do you want to improve staff productivity by 10%, reduce energy consumption by 30%, or improve your HCHAPS scores?
3. Set goal dates and measure your progress.
What is your benchmark for reducing waste or adverse patient events in 6 months, 1 year, or 3 years down the road? How does that benchmark compare to other hospitals? How will you measure your progress? Do you have the tools to help you monitor your improvements in a simple, automated way to maximize efficiency?
4. Celebrate success.
Each milestone reached is one step closer to finish-line. Each accomplishment deserves recognition and reward. How will you celebrate your staff when your HCHAPS scores come back higher? Will you publically share your these successes through press releases, case studies, and maybe even a party to thank all the staff that had a hand in helping the organization reach that goal?
If your hospital is looking to reduce medical errors and energy consumption in the New Year and those to come, check out the following resources to help you cross the finish line.