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Sweeping healthcare reform has stalled.  Many healthcare leaders I know are relieved.  They saw this as a good idea gone wrong as only Congress can do. 

The national focus now seems to be shifting to deficit reduction and job creation,  both critical short-term priorities. 

As the national spotlight “pivots” to the economy, healthcare leaders know they have much work to do concerning those issues they do control: enhancing quality of care and patient safety, improving efficiency, and reducing costs.  In that context, I want to revisit a blog I originally posted in April of last year. 

(April 15, 2009) – I have been thinking recently about the important role that
leaders play in moving their organizations to best-in class status.  Or the blame they deserve when their
organizations fail to deliver.

 For health system or hospital Chief Executive Officers,
best-in-class means meeting robust standards for patient quality, safety and
satisfaction from their customers, the physicians, as well as their patients
and family members.  Of equal and
essential importance, the best organizations also care about the satisfaction
of their employees. 

 We are not talking
a best effort initiative,  but a
commitment to consistently delivering perfection, or as close to it as humanly

To deliver this level of quality and safety, CEOs must build
exceptional teams who are passionately focused on those goals.  This passion must run deep within the
cultural DNA of the organization. 
These results are not attainable without a extensive commitment to
leadership, management and employee develop – ongoing educational programs that
cover all facets of the operation that lead to these challenging best-in-class

The vast majority of CEOs who lead health systems or
hospitals will say that their people are their most important asset.  However, if you look at industry-wide
investment in these types of continuing education programs you will quickly see
that our industry is more about talk than action.  Which explains why our death rate from
avoidable mistakes remains excessively high.

There are two dead giveaways when you measure an
organization’s talk and their real commitment:

  1. Do they view enterprise-wide educational
    programs as an expense or as an investment.  
    The best run companies in America consistently invest in educating and
    developing their employees in good times and bad.
  2. Compare the CEO’s comments
    and his calendar.  In the book, “Talent Is Overrated,” Geoff Colvin writes that of  the companies that claim
    they are interested in developing leaders, many fall short.  The University of
    Michigan’s  Noel Tichy, a top
    authority on the subject, says testing a company’s real commitment is easy: ‘Just
    show me the CEO’s calendar’.


I have always believed that critical improvements in healthcare delivery — improving processes, safety, quality and reducing costs — all depend on the quality of an organization’s workforce. Fortunately, there are some important, cost-effective strategies that CEOs can initiate that will help  build a solid human capital foundation that will ensure that their organization’s survive the challenging times ahead: 

  • Overhauling internal recruitment processes 
  • Implementing an integrated onboarding program
  • Talent mapping to create a best-in-breed systematic enterprise-wide management assessment program

The cost of creating this human capital foundation is one of the best investments an organization can make.

This latest effort to reform healthcare may be pushed from the spotlight, but the economic and competitive hurdles facing healthcare providers will not subside.