What was the first big-ticket item that you ever saved for? Do you remember saving for a new car, (just out of curiosity, what make/model/year was your first car?) or sacrificing some “creature comforts” to save enough down payment for your first house? What were some of the things that you had to give up in order to meet your savings goals? Did you have to sacrifice eating out? New clothes? Entertainment? Learning to control our desire for immediate satisfaction in order to reach our larger goals, give and get is all part of moving into adulthood.
For many, the first real example of this is in college. Students invest tens of thousand of dollars for an education that won’t pay off until years later. Sometimes students are even forced to take out student loans in order to pay for tuition. They make these investments all while suffering through 4 years of questionable dinning hall cuisine, endless packages of Ramen, used or no personal transportation, and thrift store clothing. However, most college students are willing to invest in the future, and endure the journey to get there, in hopes that their vision and sacrifice will pay off.
The Inova leadership team has been talking about our new vision for some time now. Because our business, government budgets, and many of us as individuals are about to collapse under the cost burden of health care, we know we have to REINVENT how we care for our patients and their families. We have to create a new system of care that is fundamentally different from the old one – a new system that focuses on the prevention of illness (not just curing people after they get sick), that focuses on individual needs (rather than generalizations about entire populations), that employs new models of teamwork and that engages patients as part of the care team.
In short, we have envisioned a whole new Inova focused on optimizing each unique individual’s health and well-being, by working together in new ways as an efficient, effective, interdependent team. It is what our community demands and what our patients deserve. And frankly, it’s what will make our work rewarding and purposeful.
The only way we are going to be able to make this new vision a reality is if we all understand the direction and join in the sacrifice. This will require lots of changes both large and small. Many of the large changes will involve bringing major new information systems to reality and building new strengths in genomics and investigational treatments. Other changes will involve smaller investments that, if done on a large scale, will make a big difference.
Here are a few examples of some of the small investments we could make in order to reach our larger goals:
- Helping your departments and care teams improve patient flow in order to reduce waiting time. This process change could involve patients or internal coworkers who we serve in our daily work. By making necessary changes to eliminate waste, we serve more people in the same amount of space in your department.
- Washing our hands to prevent infections, which cost a lot to treat and often injure or could even kill our patients.
- Using supplies carefully so there is little waste. Let’s remember that many of our patients have to pay for the care we provide directly from their pockets.
- Turning off computers overnight to save energy costs, since the environment and the sustainability of this planet may well depend upon our ability to curb our consumption of energy.
- Preventing delays in tests so patients can go home earlier. Patients and their families want this change and we all want to reduce the costs that burden our patients and society at large.
- Using equipment with care to avoid need for costly repairs – a form of waste that everyone can help control and reduce.
- Teaching patients how to manage their care when they get home so that they are not readmitted to the hospital (e.g. diabetics, patients with heart failure).
Ok, what am I missing? I am looking for you to make some simple improvements. I need your help looking for opportunities to reduce waste, improve the safety and quality of our work and reduce costs. Small, simple investments, if done on a large scale, will make significant contributions to the investments we need to make to achieve our long-term vision. I am hoping that you’ll share suggestions or reports of improvement you’ve tried in your department that others need to know about. Please, take a minute to make an “investment” suggestion that helps us reduce our costs or improve our patients’ experiences.
Together, we are smarter than any one of us is alone. We can achieve our new vision by reinventing the savings we identify together.
Thanks for all you do!