Leaders often tend to talk about the benefits of improved patient flow in terms of
efficiency and financial goals—a perspective that doesn’t always resonate with
clinicians. But pursuing quality will always be more compelling than efficiency.
Clinicians want to provide the best care possible. If changes are framed in terms
of increasing quality, clinicians are much more likely to adhere to best practices
and improve operations. So, patient flow initiatives should always be framed as
part of quality improvement.
Let’s look at two examples of organizations that have successfully engaged
clinicians in patient flow by reframing conversations to focus on quality.
Tap into storytelling to engage clinicians in collective goals
One way to emphasize the quality impact of patient flow initiatives is through
At Anne Arundel Medical Center, a 380-bed not-for-profit hospital in Annapolis,
Maryland, leaders implemented a number of patent flow initiatives that required
radical changes for their clinical teams. To ensure the success of those
initiatives, the CNO and CMO, who co-owned these patient flow initiatives,
crafted a clinician engagement srategy that focused on how these changes
affected individual patients directly.
The impact stories were powerful ways to show how patient flow inefficiencies
can negatively impact patient care. The stories attached patients' faces and
names to the importance of efficient throughput. Stories resonate with clinicians
and staff alike.
At Anne Arundel Medical Center, leaders took a “cascading” approach—sharing
patient stories with the leadership team and then spreading them to the front line.
While there are many ways to spread patient stories throughout an organization, we
recommend incorporating patient stories into your existing meetings or forums.
Storytelling served both as a catalyst for Anne Arundel Medical Center’s throughput
improvement work and a touchstone to remember why that work truly matters. You
and your executive colleagues must lead with quality to cast patient flow initiatives
in the right light.
Build a patient flow campaign around the shared goal of quality care
Government targets for emergency department care are now the norm, but clinical
staff are often skeptical of these targets and the processes to help achieve them.
Auckland City Hospital, an 833-bed public hospital in New Zealand, was all too
familiar with this challenge. The hospital wasn't able to achieve the Ministry of
Health’s six-hour emergency department target. Clinicians weren't engaged in
efforts to achieve this target, limiting the success of throughput initiatives.
But the hospital started to frame the ED target in a new way. They developed an
internal campaign for staff: the “Valuing Patients’ Time” campaign, which
emphasized how adherence to the six-hour target benefits patients. The campaign
made the connection between seeing patients faster and giving them better care by
focusing on the positive effect of shorter wait times on the overall patient
We recommend presenting patient flow goals like wait times in a similar light so
the targets don't feel like an "business" mandate. Instead, the targets become
part of what clinical teams care about most: providing high-quality care to their
patients. This change in messaging makes staff more invested in achieving
patient flow gains.