High Reliability Heats Up in Federal Healthcare
with Amanda Bonser, Huron managing director
In recent years, the federal government has stepped up its interest in high reliability, implementing initiatives in key branches of the military under the Defense Health Agency as well as in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). “They’re taking note of the traction high reliability organizations (HROs) are gaining in the private sector and getting on board,” explains Huron Managing Director Amanda Bonser.
As in the private sector, the federal government is tapping into best practices in high reliability due to an increasing focus on patient safety and providing top quality care. “In some cases—such as for the VHA and military—hospitals face high visibility in the media and congressional scrutiny. That provides additional impetus to ensure a culture of zero harm,” adds Bonser.
Military hospitals face an additional layer of complexity: chronic high turnover due to frequent and predictable military transitions. And yet, they must still foster engagement effectively to sustain a culture embracing the five principles of high reliability. (See below: “5 Ways HROs Excel at Safety.”)
As a result, they’re embracing Studer Group tactics such as AIDET®, Hourly Rounding®, Leader Rounding on Employees, and stoplight reports to solicit and recognize specific high reliability behaviors they want to see repeated. “For example, during Leader Rounding on Employees, a leader may ask, ‘Who would you like to recognize for practicing a specific safety behavior?’”
Other best practices to emulate from federal healthcare? “A strong onboarding plan to address anticipated turnover and promote a robust safety culture,” suggests Bonser. “And training. Military hospitals offer a great example of how to align disparate cultures since they need to bridge the static civilian workforce and constantly changing military workforce. Ensuring a ready medical force is a key objective. “That’s why they commit to holding quarterly off-site Leadership Development Institutes. It’s a great way to cascade messaging throughout the organization and build skills that drive communication and accountability,” she adds. “When you combine goals and accountability to metrics, with dedication from leaders to round on employees and patients for real-time feedback, you get to the very heart of a successful safety-first culture.”