Continuous improvement of the quality of a healthcare organization is an ultimate goal of any hospital that requires not only wise leadership but also the engagement of employees. Indeed, the involvement of workers can be defined as their connectedness to the workplace and participation in resolving current issues (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). Furthermore, employees’ contributions should not be forced, and hence the working environment must be established in a way to elicit the staff’s initiative to suggest improvements to the system (Li et al., 2018). Therefore, health institutions should strive for an organizational culture that encourages progress, open communication, teaching, training, and effective teamwork.
One of the approaches that can help engage healthcare employees in the quality culture is Lean principles, which were developed in the business world but became relevant in many different spheres, including hospital administration. According to Graban and Toussaint (2018), this management system allows for doing more with “less human effort, less equipment, less time, and less space … providing customers with exactly what they want” (p. 25). The five main principles of the Lean philosophy are specifying consumers’ values, identifying steps in the value stream, following these actions, responding to customers’ needs, and striving for perfection (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). The latter is achieved through constantly removing unnecessary and wasteful processes. However, the two core teachings of the Lean system are continuous improvement and respect for people, both clients and workers (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). The hospitals can acquire these principles to improve clinicians’ participation in hospital management, which should eventually improve patient outcomes. Unfortunately, some healthcare workers view this method narrowly, taking only specific techniques and applying them in a top-down manner.
The Lean system’s essential features that allow it to engage employees in the quality improvement process are standardization and design. Indeed, work in this approach is organized, allowing to reveal and resolve problems stepwise (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). Since difficulties in this method are made visible, it is easier to immediately address them and find a proper solution (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). Issues are accepted as routine in this approach, preventing underreporting (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). Although the modern healthcare institution’s system is built in a way to minimize medical errors or prevent severe outcomes by having multiple protection layers in every procedure, errors still occur. Therefore, an analytic rather than punitive perspective will ensure that all problems are recognized and assessed. Moreover, it is crucial to ensure that solutions are evenly disseminated across the hospital’s different departments to avoid situations when individual units struggle with the problem alone (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). Notably, all healthcare workers should be taught these principles to have a strong team capable of decision-making.
Another approach to engaging clinical workers in quality improvement in hospitals is reducing unnecessary tasks. For instance, the transition to electronic health records without writing patient histories was essential to saving doctors’ and nurses’ time. The reduction of irrelevant duties in the management of healthcare organizations is also a part of the Lean system (Graban & Toussaint, 2018). Indeed, according to Graban and Toussaint (2018), “When employees, departments, or hospitals are overworked, we need to reduce waste instead of just asking for more resources and people” (p. 47). Thus, diminishing the number of assignments minimizes the burden on employees, allowing them to spend more time with patients and proposing changes to upgrade the quality of care.
Graban, M., & Toussaint, J. (2018). Lean hospitals: Improving quality, patient safety, and employee engagement. Productivity Press.
Li, S. A., Jeffs, L., Barwick, M., & Stevens, B. (2018). Organizational contextual features that influence the implementation of evidence-based practices across healthcare settings: A systematic integrative review. Systematic Reviews, 7(1), 1-19. Web.