Friday, October 7, 2011

Healthcare Promises

Promises made and promises kept are an important part of most any successful business today.  Healthcare is no different.

Last weekend, I traveled to New England to see my daughter play in two field hockey games and help my wife and one of our sons move more 'stuff' (and our two cats) to Maryland. On Saturday, with confirmation in hand, I stopped to pick up my 10-foot Budget rental truck, only to be told “we don’t have any 10-foot trucks”.  Surprised, I showed the clerk my paperwork, to which he responded, “Oh, THEY’VE been doing that to us a lot lately,” noting his shop was not actually a Budget office but merely a vendor offering Budget rentals.

So I called Budget’s 800 phone number, and was offered a much larger (24-foot) truck at their cost, or I could wait a few hours and they’d try to find a 10-foot truck at another vendor.  The problem was, it was Saturday afternoon and that was not likely as most other rental locations in a 50-mile radius were closed.  So, I took the 24-foot truck even though it was much larger than what we needed and wasn’t what I was promised.  When I pulled up to load the boxes, my wife came outside, aghast and surprised at what I was driving.  When I shared with her that Budget had failed to deliver on their promise and this is what we had to deal with, we realized I had to change my plans for Sunday, skip my daughter’s game and drive straight through to Baltimore.

Thankfully I made it back to Maryland safely, and was able to navigate the large truck through the small streets in my neighborhood, but was frustrated at Budget’s failure and how it impacted my family plans.

At GBMC, our promise is to do our best to take care of you like we would our own family members. We have to understand that we promise things to our patients every day, even if we don't always state the promise explicitly to the patient. The promise includes not harming the patient, doing our best to make them get better, and doing it in a way that is respectful of them as humans. It is very important that the whole GBMC family understands the nature of such promises and that we are continually working to make it easier to keep our promises.

That's why I was delighted to spend most of yesterday in a day-long retreat with our entire Board of Directors, chairmen of our clinical departments,  and members of our HealthCare Board Quality Committee. With the help of an outside consultant, we spent the day strategizing about how to make care at GBMC even safer and of higher quality than it is already. We discussed our recent changes to our quality structure, our culture of safety survey results, and other measures of quality. We got input on how other organizations approach quality and patient safety, and we shared our thoughts about the book: Why Hospitals Should Fly, by John Nance. All participants reaffirmed their commitment to our new vision phrase, and to our desire to never break our promises to our patients.

On a related note, there’s somewhat of a promise, or an expectation, that technology equipment will work and do the job that it is supposed to do. In the 21st century of healthcare, we rely a great deal on technology to power the electronic systems that allow us to do our jobs and care for patients.  Unfortunately, on Saturday and again this Tuesday, a series of problems occurred with the power supply in our data center, and many of the systems that we rely on to collect data and do our jobs failed.

We opened our Hospital Command Center on both days and our teams of experts (information technology, facilities, engineering, and others) successfully managed both critical situations. Kudos to our clinical staff who were able to continue providing the excellent care we are known for and our patients deserve despite facing the challenges of multiple electronic systems not working correctly for a period of time. I promise you that we will work hard and find the money to create more redundant systems to reduce the chance that this should happen again. We are too dependent on information systems to do otherwise.

Do you have any stories about promises in business or healthcare that have made a significant impact in your life?  Please share your comments below.

Finally, I invite you to help support Team GBMC for the upcoming Baltimore Marathon. More than a dozen staff members, including Neal Friedlander, M.D., Chairman of Medicine, are working together to complete the marathon and raise funds for GBMC. They have set a goal of $2,620, that's $100 for every mile in the 26.2 mile race they will complete! To make a donation in support of the team or a runner, please complete the form at Support Team GBMC for the Baltimore Marathon!.

1 comment:

  1. As an NST I've found that keeping my promises to patients pushes all that extra stress right out of the window without dragging me with it. :) When I say I'll be back at a certain time, I come back at that time. Or, if I know I can't be back soon, I don't say that I will just to keep the patient from calling. Happy patients make the night much MUCH better!


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