Bridget Buzzella, MD, FAAP, Envision’s Regional Medical Director of Neonatology in Colorado and Kansas, discusses a number of methodologies aimed at improving patient outcomes, including the role leadership has to play in building sustainable excellence in patient care.

An effective team requires effective leadership, the kind that establishes a culture of trust and collaboration among teammates. By fostering relationships among the multiple smaller teams that make up the collective clinical team, leaders can establish multidisciplinary teams capable of bridging the common barriers to high-quality patient care.

Developing such a team requires strong leaders, ones who prioritize building the right team for their facility or health system’s needs and ensuring their teammates have the resources and support needed to succeed.

Deliberate team development is key to avoiding a toxic work environment. Toxic team behaviors can lead to negative experiences, not only for teammates but also for patients. Toxic behaviors can reduce your team’s overall capacity for critical thinking, leading to potential increases in avoidable medical errors such as inaccurate medical interpretations and increased surgical complications. Ultimately, a toxic team often coincides with increased negative outcomes and preventable costs to your facility or health system.

Building an effective team is an intricate process, one which requires deliberate choices be made. Intentional team development weeds out toxic elements while fostering the bold and creative, resulting in a positive work environment that is accepting of quality initiatives and other leadership efforts.

Such an environment is pivotal to ensuring that quality improvements are successfully implemented and that goals remain aligned around patient experience and care quality.

Developing an integrated clinical quality team with aligned goals and objectives is essential to the overall success of clinical programs. This integration includes interdepartmental medical teams, but it also goes beyond medical team members: hospital administration, formal and informal leaders as well as ancillary service leaders should also be involved.

Leadership should meet regularly to discuss current best practices and evidence-based practice guidelines, utilizing key performance data and making decisions as a team. In order to ensure an effective review of collected data, these meetings should occur at least quarterly, if not more often.

Instead of waiting for the work that comes out of leadership meetings to trickle down to the rest of the team, leadership should involve the entire clinical team, from physicians and advanced practice providers to nurses. While these meetings help mitigate process roadblocks and pinpoint how each group can continue to best support the rest of the team, there is a catch.

Involving everyone in these meetings can be great for encouraging buy-in to process improvement, but if there’s too much critique without praise, teammates may feel belittled. Strong leaders uphold process improvement without sacrificing engagement. It’s important to recognize that regular all-team meetings help fix what went wrong, but they also provide great opportunities to build engagement by celebrating what went right. Encourage engagement in these meetings by presenting to your team the “whys” behind initiatives and by celebrating wins from ongoing or previous initiatives.

It is also vital that leadership regularly take part in quality efforts. A holistic, multidisciplinary review of data is key to developing true data insights. Metrics and outcomes don’t tell the whole story; they just tell you where to look. An interdepartmental team can help identify which metrics to target in alignment with hospital goals and help hospitals identify quality solutions by closing the gap between the numbers and the stories behind them.

Buy-in for any solutions the team implements starts from the top. If we expect clinical and non-clinical teammates to adhere to new quality protocols, hospital and departmental leadership must first demonstrate a commitment to those protocols.

Strong leaders play an integral role in managing an integrated team, so those in leadership positions have to be vigilant in their support of the quality program. That vigilance is visible, and it increases the likeliness that your team’s process improvements will elevate the patient journey.

There are many different types of leadership strategies, but it’s important to remember that what’s right for the individual is often right for the group. As such, a leader must bear in mind that every decision they make will affect their teammates. How does that look in practice?

Leadership-Healthcare-improved patient outcomes

It starts with making decisions with your people in mind. That means having the foresight to recognize how your decision will affect each individual. Being emotionally aware for yourself and the team around you goes a long way.

Celebrating your team’s successes, no matter how small, is a great way to build engagement. Showing your teammates your gratitude doesn’t just make them feel good about themselves; your gratitude reflects your investment in their efforts as well.

When you ask a teammate for feedback, you are showing them that you value their opinion, but you are also facilitating their personal investment by asking them to think critically about their work. Also, remember that most people will naturally avoid conflict. Making a specific request for feedback gives them the opportunity to tell you if something is not going well without feeling as if they are complaining or creating conflict.

Within healthcare, every teammate has a different passion. They could be passionate about improving patient experience, enhancing care quality, researching best practices or any number of initiatives. Teams ultimately succeed by putting their people in the position to succeed, but people cannot thrive without the opportunity to do so.

To get the most out of your teammates, find out what their hidden talents and passions are and help them cultivate those talents and passions. By ensuring each person is doing the job that best suits them, leaders can leverage their teams’ collective talents and passions to take their teams to new heights.

In order to manage and champion growth and quality initiatives, leaders must be capable of gaining the engagement and support of their teammates. To whip up that support, leaders must have three types of focus: inner focus, other focus and outer focus.

You can put together a superb quality program with a multidisciplinary team who can make deliberate use of targeted data reviews to make meaningful changes that support the patient journey and elevate outcomes. However, those changes will not be meaningful unless leaders secure buy-in from the teammates to implement them. Effective healthcare leaders ensure their teammates have the tools, resources and support they need to deliver high-quality patient care, but they also know how to ensure that teammates make good use of the resources they’re given.

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