February 1, 2013

The human side of healthcare transformation

I just attended the Mid-Winter Leadership Forum co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA)  and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)- Massachusetts chapter. It was quite interesting and it is exciting to be in Massachusetts where there are many innovative initiatives underway.

The title of the conference:"Making Connections: Crafting a New Healthcare System", was clearly meant to highlight Collaboration and Transformation. There were presentations of several innovative Massachusetts-based collaborative initiatives in which payors and providers have come together to provide better quality, cost effective solutions.

I was a little surprised, however, at the few references to the human aspect of transformation throughout the conference day, especially given the title "Making Connections". For example, what is effective leadership in these initiatives? How do leaders in healthcare organizations contribute to, or hinder, these transformations? What is the role of the physician leaders, healthcare executives, nurse managers and other leaders in ensuring the successful transition throughout these massive changes? What about those on the front lines?
Peter Straley, President & CEO, of Health New England, Inc. came closest to addressing the personal side of change by noting that what was really needed was to change the culture in which we grew up. YES!  A new vision...a new way of viewing and operating in a healthcare system within which we have been living.

Transforming healthcare is not about new technologies or new payor systems ALONE. Yes, those are critical, as are needed structural and systemic changes for delivering high quality care, more efficiently, effectively and at a lower cost. But, transformation requires personal change. It is about changing the culture. It requires collaboration, communication and compromise. It requires a new way of thinking. In essence, it is about changing behavior. And this is often the most difficult change of all.

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