Five things healthcare leaders can do right now

Transforming the U.S. healthcare system may seem like a daunting task; however, there are steps that can be taken now that can help further change and transformation. Here are five things healthcare leaders and organizations can do right now:

1. Listen to patients and consumers – With the advent of the internet and social media patient and healthcare consumers have become more informed.  These days the people that healthcare organizations are serving know more about what they want for their own healthcare and what they want from healthcare organizations than ever before. Healthcare organizations can start right now creating ways for patient’s voices to inform organizational practices.

2. Streamline processes using Lean and other process improvement methodologies – Why do people wait 8 hours in the ED to be seen on a Sunday? Why are physicians’ offices so backed up that patients wait an hour or more past their appointment time to be seen? Much of it has to do with inefficient processes.

3. Create collaboration between communities, healthcare organizations and public health entities – Healthcare organizations are beginning to see the real benefits to creating healthier communities.  Partnerships with local communities and public health entities can create enormous benefits for both those living in the community and for the organizations involved.  See my blog post Building a Healthier Community for one such example.

4. Initiate patient portals and virtual access for patients and consumers – Patients want access to their health information online.  They want to be engaged in their own healthcare decision making and they want to be able to communicate with their healthcare providers when it is convenient to them.  The VA has made better strides in creating a patient portal that encompasses all of these things than any other healthcare organization in the country.  The VA’s MyHealtheVet while not fully functional in all areas is still on the cutting edge.

5. Invest in a workforce that is engaged – Healthcare transformation will never happen if we don’t have an engaged healthcare workforce.  Many of those who work in healthcare do so because they care about caring; they care about helping people.  They are driven by a sense of vocation, but too often that sense of mission and vocation is stolen by organizations that create processes and procedures that dehumanize the healthcare experience not only for patient but also for professionals.

These are just five simple suggestions of actions that healthcare leaders can take today to push healthcare transformation forward in their organizations.  While these may not solve the larger problems facing our healthcare system as a whole they can certainly make a difference at the local level.


Joel High is a healthcare consultant who works with healthcare organizations around the country to assist them in implementing Patient-centered care. He has an MDiv and an MBA. Joel is passionate about creating change in healthcare that impacts the patient experience and brings meaning back to the work of healthcare professionals. He lives in Omaha, NE.

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  • Mark

    Joel I agree with all five points but, I see point 1 and 3 connected in an important way. If we are to listen we must listen in a unique way. For me adults who are actively engaged in their healthcare are doing so because they are seeking solutions to problems. (I know this is my one trick pony, adult learning is key to engaging patients.) If we are to truely engage and motivate and hear patients we must listen and search out the problems they are seeking to solve. And it is not passive or active listening but doing a needs assessment and determining where they reside on their continuum of knowledge and where they want to be and what is the next important point along that continuum for them.

    Once we understand that we can better create social and collaboration tools that better manage patient needs and expectations. I believe the single overriding strategy here is learning. What does the patient want to learn, what will they do with that knowledge, and has that knowledge changed an outcome?

    • JoelHigh

      Mark, you make some very good points. Needs assessments are critical at the individual, organizational and community levels. Leaders also need to know what resources are already available in order not to duplicate and to assist patients in accessing those resources. As I have written before organizations must be proactive in creating venues where the voices of patients and consumers can be heard and mechanisms for responding to those voices.

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