But take a look anyway, if you have an interest in process improvement in hospitals. This is a collection of my best posts on this topic.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Borrowing safety ideas in the Netherlands

I just attended and presented at a conference at Jeroen Bosch Hospital in 's-Hertogenbosch (den Bosch), in the Netherlands, entitled "Quality and Transparency in Care and Training." It was held on the occasion of the opening of an entirely new hospital, following a merger with two other hospitals in the city (Bosch Medicentrum and the Carolus Hospitals). Hospital administrators and clinicians from throughout the country attended.

Our MC for the day was Jozein Bensing, professor of health psychology at the University of Utrecht. Relative to today's topic, she is most known for a paper she published a few years ago documenting that 1700 people per year unnecessarily die in Dutch health care facilities. This report gave substantial impetus to improvements in patient safety in the country's hospitals.

Jozein chairs the quality and safety committee of Jeroen Bosch's supervisory board (the equivalent of the board of trustees of a US hospital.) She said that the hospital has a goal of being the safest hospital in the Netherlands and plans to do so by "practicing what you preach" and learning as much as possible from others, in the health care field and beyond.

So it was appropriate that the chair of the symposium committee, Marck Haerkens (CEO of Wings of Care), and his colleagues decided to bring in the lessons of quality and safety from other fields. They see parallels with airline safety, and so we heard from Pieter van Vollenhoven Chair of the national Safety Board; Jos Nijhuis, CEO of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, and Tames Oud, head of training for Transavia Airlines.

Tames suggested that, while aviation and medicine are two different worlds, there some striking similarities, such as highly motivated professionals and critical processes. In both worlds safety and quality depend on effective cooperation between different disciplines. Like Captain Sullenberger back in the US, Tames asserted that the medical community could benefit from Crew Resource Management (CRM). Its objective is to reduce incidents (and worse) due to lack of situational awareness and team cooperation. He noted that CRM training makes people aware of the relevance of the human factor in team performance, and aids in creating a blame-free environment for people to work in.

In addition, Scott Higginbotham, mission manager at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, presented on "Safety and Mission Assurance." (He is seen here on the right with Willy Spaan, the hospital's CEO.) Scott's primary responsibility is to lead the multi-disciplinary team of engineers and technicians that assemble and test the experiments and satellites that fly aboard the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. A summary: Manned spaceflight is an incredibly complex and inherently risky human endeavor. As the result of the lessons learned through years of triumph and tragedy, NASA has embraced a comprehensive and integrated approach to the challenge of ensuring safety and mission success. His presentation provided an overview of some of the techniques employed in this effort.

Regular readers of this blog will know my topic: I presented the experience of my former hospital with regard to its goal to eliminate preventable harm for its patients. I explored the hospital’s success in improving quality and safety for patients, endorsing public transparency of clinical outcomes, and engaging in process improvement driven by front-line staff.

As I have noted before, there are often misconceptions as people talk about “transparency” in the health care field. They say the main societal value is to provide information so patients can make decisions about which hospital to visit for a given diagnosis or treatment. As for hospitals, people believe the main strategic value of transparency is to create a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other hospitals in the same city or region. Both these impressions are misguided.

Transparency’s major societal and strategic imperative is to provide creative tension within hospitals so that they hold themselves accountable. This accountability is what will drive doctors, nurses, and administrators to seek constant improvements in the quality and safety of patient care.

Many thanks to the symposium's major organizers, Marian de Bont and Dr. Kees Smulders, secretary and manager, respectively, of Jeroen Bosch's quality section (seen here) for their invitation and for planning a day of interesting and insightful talks.

In the post above, I include recent activities of Dr. Smulders and his staff with regard to new approaches to transparency in their hospital.

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