Why should I care?

by Burl Stamp

Part 3 in Our Series: A Smarter Approach to S.M.A.R.T. Goals

“Please help me connect the dots”

In our work with frontline health care staff, this plea is one of the most common ones we hear. With new protocols, payer requirements and regulations shifting constantly, staff understandably struggle to make sense of all of these changes. To President Trump’s comment that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” most frontline caregivers would tell you that they know providing care is more challenging and complex every day. That’s why setting and explaining goals that are meaningful is so important.

Chasing the numbers can become all-consuming

In today’s metrics-driven world, it is easy for even the most compassionate caregiver to quickly become obsessed with the numbers. Thirty-day readmission rates. Incidents per thousand patients. HCAHPS top box scores. Sadly, “money” is too often our answer when staff ask why HCAHPS scores or readmission rates matter. Yes, it is true that Medicare and many commercial payers do indeed pay us more when we achieve lower readmission rates, high patient experience scores and better clinical metrics. But the reason they pay us more is because these improved practices make real differences in patients’ lives.

So rather than only considering the numbers and trends, let’s consider the incredible meaning and power behind key questions on the HCAHPS, Press Ganey and other patient satisfaction surveys: treating patients with courtesy and respect, listening to them carefully, being responsive to their needs. When our scores are lower than we want on these important questions, it means we’ve fallen short in caring for fellow human beings in ways they want, need and deserve.

When we develop goals that underscore the powerful things that happen when we do achieve them, it not only gives more meaning to the goal; it gives more meaning to the work each of us in health care do every day.

Tips for developing and leveraging more meaningful goals

Begin goals with brief purpose phrases

A purpose phrase begins with “to,” such as:

– To reduce suffering for patients, fully implement new fall precautions that will decrease the incidence of falls by …

To improve patient assurance and understanding, consistently use teach-back and open-ended question that will increase “listen carefully” and “explained things” scores by …

– To reduce unexpected returns to the hospital for cardiac patients following their stay/procedure, change practice for discharge instructions to include …

Use storytelling

Storytelling in an opportunity to share experiences that have made a real difference in an individual patient’s life and support achievement of a related team goal.

Consider implications for patients

As a team, always talk about the implications for patients that are behind the numbers attached to individual goals.

Whether it is an improved patient experience target or financial metric, providing the context and meaning behind the specific goals we establish improves both understanding and adoption. And even more importantly, when a goal is reached, it makes the achievement that much more meaningful for individuals and the entire team.

The “Align” module in our new MyTEAM® application makes goal setting, tracking and sharing simpler – and more powerful – for leaders.

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