If there is a constant defined in the healthcare industry, it is that the industry is continuously changing. The changes are driven by regulations, technology, consumer preferences, and socio-economic factors that impact the way patient care is delivered. These factors can be categorized as economic, technological, social, and each has a unique impact on the behavior of key players in any given industry, including healthcare. Clearly, the concept of change is not new to healthcare organizations. Organizations are subject to change all the time, each and every day. Change should be experienced as a natural state and organizational members should be empowered to question and challenge the status quo. But does the organizational culture actually encourage employees to challenge the status quo, allow experimentation and ways to improve processes?
Following is an example of a healthcare organization that is developing the creative muscle and making an organization-wide commitment to innovation and change while recognizing that each employee is a change agent with the mindset that change is a natural state and continuous improvement is the norm.
Kugler Vision is a premium refractive surgery practice located in Omaha, Nebraska. Kugler Vision offers all seven refractive surgical procedures including LASIK, PRK, SMILE, Phakic IOL, Corneal Inlays, Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) and refractive cataract surgery. Kugler Vision prides itself on offering the best technology available and an unparalleled patient experience. The mission is to maximize the human experience for all patients by helping them see the world with the best vision possible. With the goal to provide a transformational experience, all patients feel comfortable, welcome, confident, and knowledgeable in their decision-making process.
Change and innovation are part of the culture DNA at Kugler Vision. That is manifested in the attitudes, beliefs, and norms that promote an ongoing and constructive embrace of change. At Kugler Vision, all team members adopted the mindset that change happens by asking questions, listening, engaging, and energizing everyone in ways that allow them to get out of their comfort zone and succeed.
Challenge the status quo and be better tomorrow are part of the overall values system that guides the team’s behaviors, problem-solving, and decision-making. Continuous improvement is wired in day-to-day activities, thus, making the notion of change an expected norm as opposed to an unexpected shock.
At Kugler Vision, the culture is rooted in the following principles:
Employee participation. When it comes to change and innovation, the best ideas come from the team members who are actively involved in the patient journey. More importantly, team members' participation in the implementation process of their own ideas, not only drives better outcomes, but also leads to developing the creativity muscles.
Courage to speak up. All team members are encouraged to contribute to improvements in processes and systems. Each team member is a process owner, thus empowered to suggest improvements and optimize it to make the patient journey easy and streamlined. The culture for improvement means that the processes are not accepted as they are, team members always look for opportunities to improve them. The willingness to speak up and make suggestions can often lead to breakthrough ideas. Therefore, it is crucial to create an environment, in which team members feel safe to speak up without fear of judgment or ridicule.
Share knowledge. Sharing knowledge is an essential element in driving innovation. When team members share their expertise and experiences, they can learn from and build on each other's strengths. Moreover, this knowledge-sharing culture fosters a stronger sense of teamwork and collaboration. Emphasizing knowledge-sharing can also lead to reduced silos, allowing for more effective communication throughout the organization.
Reframe failure. In a continuous improvement culture, failure takes on a new meaning. Failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn and adjust, which, in turn, can lead to unexpected outcomes. The team members build on mistakes and quickly regain confidence after experiencing disappointment or failure. This mindset shift allows for a more positive outlook and fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks, knowing that even if they don't succeed, they will learn from the experience.
Continuous feedback. Continuous feedback is a vital element in driving change and innovation. The notion of feedback is rooted in a shared commitment to grow, learn, and get better. The team members are encouraged to create short feedback loops and take action that elicits useful feedback faster. Furthermore, continuous feedback fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable receiving and giving feedback, allowing for greater accountability and growth.
Embrace experimentation. It is important to embrace experimentation. Experimentation allows the team to test new ideas and quickly pivot if needed. Teams who are willing to experiment are more likely to find new and innovative solutions. Moreover, supporting experimentation leads to a more open and innovative culture, resulting in better patient outcomes.
Team collaboration and problem-solving. At its core, change, innovation, improvement is a team effort. Moreover, these expectations and traits are wired throughout the entire team from management to care delivery team. It is critical for team members to work together on solutions that fit the organization, feel safe to fail and to try new things. More importantly, creating cross-functional teams can lead to a more diverse set of perspectives and lead to breakthrough ideas that may not have been possible without everyone's participation.
Innovation and continuous improvement are crucial to the success of Kugler Vision. Keeping pace with new technologies and improving patient experience, and reducing costs, while nurturing a high-level of employee engagement are just a few of the challenges that the organization is facing in a dynamic industry. It can be challenging to track the progress of initiatives and determine whether they are making a real impact. For that reason, the organization is focused on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with its continuous improvement nature. By implementing the right KPIs, the organization can measure the success of its innovation and continuous improvement efforts, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions. Below are three performance indicators that are unique to Kugler Vision and align with the organization’s continuous improvement and innovation values:
Employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to generate innovative ideas and take ownership of continuous improvement efforts. Kugler Vision measures employee engagement through an annual survey and other feedback mechanisms. The survey results are made public, and the team is aware of the overall employee engagement scores. Based on the results, the Kugler Vision team can identify gaps and areas to improve the culture, leadership, and training programs.
Net Promoter Score. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a crucial KPI for measuring the success of continuous improvement initiatives at Kugler Vision. The organization sends surveys to patients when their appointments are completed. The patients have an opportunity to rank their experiences and provide direct feedback to the team. By collecting feedback from patients through surveys, Kugler Vision can identify areas of improvement on a regular basis. This could include improving the patient experience at each touch point, streamlining appointment scheduling, or enhancing communication between patients and healthcare providers. Furthermore, consistently achieving high net promoter scores, allows the team to celebrate and take pride in their work.
Execution of Actionable Ideas. At Kugler Vision, the ability to execute actionable ideas is essential for success. Ideas may be plentiful, but without proper execution, they remain just that - ideas. For that reason, every year, Kugler Vision goes through a planning cycle identifying all the initiatives and changes for the next fiscal year. As part of this process, resources get allocated and accountable team members get assigned. Once the initiatives transition to the execution phase, the organization and its leaders ensure that everything gets implemented within time, scope, and budget.
The Kugler Vision case study demonstrates that a participatory approach can lead to a workplace culture that empowers team members to improve processes and systems, provide feedback, executive their ideas in a timely fashion, share knowledge, and face adversity with confidence. This, in turn, lowers the level of uncertainty, improves change outcomes, while increasing patient satisfaction, employee satisfaction and engagement.
Status quo is not a natural state and organizations must change and adapt to survive. One way that organizations can reduce the perceived threat of change is to adopt managerial approaches to empower everyone to question and challenge the status quo. Furthermore, it is important that organizational members embrace a continuous improvement mindset. Leaders need to create an environment in which change is experienced as a natural state and incremental changes are not only embraced but actively pursued by everyone at all levels of the organization. If the organizational culture promotes an ongoing and healthy embrace of change, perceptions of the threat related to change are reduced.