Working in the healthcare industry is a big challenge. But what makes having a job in this industry extra special? Surely, it’s not just the beeping machines attached to patients or the hustle and bustle of the trauma department. People go to hospitals to get better, and they want to go home healthier and safer than the day they came in. Services in this industry revolve around this principle, and this is what makes working in healthcare extra challenging.

When patients seek medical care, they want undivided attention from their providers. If they could only help it, they also would like to demand information anytime they want it, in a manner that they can understand. They are looking for hotel-like services, from amenities to menu. They want to trust physicians to find a cure to their maladies just like they trust pilots to land their planes on their destinations’ runways safely.  They like the convenience of Uber and mobile apps, and Walmart’s everything-in-one-place concept of retailing.

Over the years, there had been numerous attempts to achieve this kind of nirvana, but healthcare organizations still lag behind other industries in terms of safety and quality outcomes compared to other sectors. One possible reason for the slow pace of advancement is resistance to automation. For one, EHRs are still considered to be a headache for physicians. 

Another reason is that unlike in the manufacturing business where standards of quality are easily defined, maintained and measured, in healthcare, it is an entirely different story. The diversity of people seeking care and the complexities of their needs vary to a significant degree, making quality control a very tough feat. Furthermore, patients equate time with quality. They perceive that the more time they spend with physicians, the better the care they receive.

The result of meeting expectations on quality especially using value-based care delivery only means one thing for the staff: too much work, so little time, too few men to do the job. The system makes the workforce burnt-out and disengaged. Teams that work on a common goal also regularly change. And then there are lapses in communication, too. These are signs of lack of efficiency and effectiveness. They open many rooms for errors to happen.

Negatives spiral into more negatives, and before you know it, stakeholders lose their trust. Costs to operate increase due to employee turnovers and legal disputes arising from errors and discontent. Great talents leave the organization. The institution’s reputation and team pride suffer.

Although healthcare could learn numerous strategies from other industries on how to possibly mitigate shortcomings and become high-reliability organizations, there is no one-size-fits-all pattern to make this possible. But a combination of the best qualities applied in the best possible way can surely turn things around.

If only high-reliability organizations made a list of characteristics that made them what they are, they would have filled a whole pad of paper. But what would have topped their list? It would definitely be these five qualities below:

  • Safety

Because healthcare deals directly with human lives and an error could easily equate to a loss of one, safety is of utmost importance. Errors have no place in this industry, but they do happen. Under this category should then enter improvements in communication and coordination, and adequacy and timeliness of information access.

  • Quality

Break the perception that quality equates with time. Services can be delivered in positive and safe outcomes even with less time if processes and workflows are efficient. Consider automation. Foster transparency. Quality should equate with met goals, and healthier, more satisfied patients.

  • Effectiveness and Efficiency

Systems, processes, management and the workforce should be like gears of a clock winding in sync and harmony to move the hands of the clock. Teamwork and collaboration amidst individual differences and constantly changing group dynamics should prevail and bring up positive results.  

  • Zest

Disengaged employees and dissatisfied patients are great deterrents to becoming a high-reliability organization. Employees are the life force, and the patients are the lifeblood of any healthcare organization. Keeping them in the game, putting them in the know-how and harnessing their best contributions through motivation are like greasing gears of an engine. Revving up and reaching goals become spontaneous. Going to work becomes less of an obligation and more of a humanitarian effort.

These five must-have qualities of healthcare organizations are the strongest foundation of high-reliability. When employees have a mindset of these conditions and the necessary tools to live them out, the organization achieves its goals and earns the ticket to survival in these times of uncertainty and tremendous changes.