Mission, Vision and Values - Connecting to the "Why" of Healthcare

Part 6 of our 7-part series on What's Right in Health Care® 2016 focuses on the "why" of healthcare. A key ingredient in the success of high-performing organizations is the ability to define, articulate, communicate and constantly return to the "why" - an expression of core purpose that's written into the organization's mission, vision, and values, and becomes the starting point for cultural transformation.

Our previous Insight, focused on issues confronting physicians. In our final installment, we will report on keynote speakers who "connected the dots" and used interesting and thought-provoking frameworks to bring together the diverse ideas shared at What's Right in Health Care.

A message heard often at What's Right in Health Care is that even the best tools and tactics work effectively and sustainably only when supported by culture change. This begins with engagement, motivated by both the metrics of performance and the passion for patient care:

  • Kim Bordenkircher, CEO of Henry County Hospital in Napoleon, Ohio, is a leader who personifies the synthesis of heart and mind. She spoke about values-based leadership in action, inspiring others, developing an environment that engages staff to excel, and the alignment of vision, goals and strategies. She advocates a strong connection to the "why" of patient care - "if it is the right thing for the patient, it is never the wrong thing to do" - and a culture in which relentless reinforcement of constructive behaviors is the norm, and all are accountable for results.

  • Eric Hanna, president and CEO, Arnprior Regional Health (ARH), Arnprior, Ontario, is one of this year's Studer Group Hall of Fame inductees. He led a session focused specifically on using the "why" to drive engagement and outcomes. He talked about a leadership approach that always starts with the why (mission, vision, values) followed by the what (metrics, outcomes) and then the how (practices, tactics). This is hardwired at ARH and, for Eric Hanna "just the way I do it".

  • Western New South Wales Local Health District, a large health network with 37 hospitals, is implementing accountability systems that are driving improvements in a range of performance indicators. Beth Masling, director of service excellence and corporate leadership, highlighted several ways in which the efforts are linked to core purpose, including a public pledge to patients that, according to one staff member "has finally given me the support to do the things we came into nursing to do".

  • Mitch Hagins, general manager, Studer Group Canada, argued in a 10 Minutes that Count session that "it's really all about partnership - every encounter with a colleague or a patient is a partnership moment." He introduced the succinct phrase "With. Our. Values." With speaks to alignment, our is the inclusive pronoun that brings us together, and values are the common vision that drives us. "We have to work on partnership, and how do we do that? With. Our. Values."


The tools of engagement generate results, but these are sustained only when culture is transformed, and this requires strong connections to the "why" of healthcare.


Rich Bluni, Studer Group senior leader, author and speaker, acknowledged the critical importance of proven, reliable methods, but then purposefully shifted his focus to the spiritual and philosophical dimensions of healthcare. He drew from his background as a nurse, and told compelling, personal and heart-felt stories about patient encounters loaded with disappointment, anger and worry, as well as relief, joy and inspiration. The nods, smiles, and tears from a captivated audience suggested that there was resonance, and that many could relate to these very real and human stories from their own experiences.

"So what is healthcare?" This is the question Rich Bluni asked himself after pondering the many moving stories of patient care he has experienced himself and heard from caregivers all over the world. At first he rejected the answer that came to him as something that won't be taken seriously in a data-driven world, but then relented: Healthcare is love - acts of deep compassion and caring that all of us in healthcare have the opportunity and privilege of performing every day. He returned again to the importance of core purpose by further describing the love in healthcare as Living Our Values Everyday.

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