Burnout. Staff shortages. Diminishing retention. If you lead or work in a health system, you’re familiar with these issues and have probably been discussing possible solutions. But how do we understand why the healthcare industry faces these challenges in the first place? And how do we take a systems-based approach to address them?
In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, we speak with Geoffrey Roche, Senior Vice President of National Health Care Practice & Workforce Partnerships for Core Education Services, PBC, to discuss how the sector confronts crisis — and how we can improve the entire system by putting people at the heart of our cultures.
Healthcare decision-making needs to include multiple levels
Hospitals are notorious for rigid hierarchies. Traditional thinking dictates that maintaining high standards of care and curating a safe environment for patients demanded a top-down approach. But, Geoffrey explains, this paradigm can slow down progress.
“If there’s one thing about healthcare that still makes a lot of people scratch their heads, it’s that [we] know what our problems are, we just don’t always solve them. … In one way, that’s because healthcare is very risk-averse. At the same time, healthcare has the type of culture that is greatly influenced by group-think. … And we tend to be a little too top-heavy in a lot of decision-making, when we actually need to flip that model to get more decision-making to occur at different levels in healthcare,” Geoffrey says.
One example of this is with EHRs. Though these systems have improved some care and operational aspects, they’ve also contributed to “declined clinician-patient engagement,” according to Geoffrey. Incorporating frontline voices to make sure the new isn’t adopted at the expense of the good is crucial for taking what’s best about healthcare into the future to solve the industry’s existential problems.
… we tend to be a little too top-heavy in a lot of decision-making, when we actually need to flip that model to get more decision-making to occur at different levels in healthcare.
Leaders can learn from other industries to solve healthcare workforce challenges
As patient priorities increasingly reflect those of consumers in other industries — like travel and hospitality — healthcare institutions can learn how other sectors have adapted to novel problems.
Geoffrey remarks, “I’ve been looking quite a bit at the airline industry because there are some parallels specifically around human-centered design and a lot of parallels on burnout How can healthcare have doctors and nurses who aren’t regulated in terms of the amount of hours they provide care, yet we have pilots who can only fly for a limited period of time? We have surgeons sometimes who go on for more than 24 hours.”
Beyond commercial arenas, healthcare can also benefit from collaborating with education initiatives. When it comes to developing and engaging teams, workforce development is key. “The only way we’re ever going to solve not just the workforce crisis that we’re living in today in healthcare, but also … prepare future pathways into a healthcare career, is through bringing an ecosystem solution together. It’s an ecosystem problem,” Geoffrey expands.
Working on culture is the way forward
Underlying all solutions to healthcare’s greatest workforce challenges, Geoffrey argues, is a need to improve culture.
“When you think about the workforce, a lot of the challenges that are being faced right now in our healthcare system across this entire nation are because of culture,” Geoffrey states. “Healthcare is an industry that has more generations working in it than ever before. And we need to celebrate those differences, find the unique aspects of all generations, and find out how we can bring everyone together to give the most superior care a patient can receive … Our patients benefit when our culture’s the best, our staff benefit when our culture’s the best.”
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