Man Talking to Two People in Scrubs | Virginia Mason Institute

Why “we have always done it that way” no longer works in health care.

Chris Backous

I grew up in Seattle, a city known as America’s soccer city, at least according to…well, everyone that lives here. I played through college and have been coaching for many, many years. I have coached adults, children, and special needs populations of all varieties of skill. Regardless of the team and their ability, one thing remains true, it’s much more enjoyable when you work together as a team, whether or not you win the game. Recreational and high performance teams all do better when they collaborate and build upon each team member’s success.

The type of teamwork that is embedded in sports is something special and it’s built on trust that everyone is working hard, toward the same goal. A well-trained and disciplined team plays as a single unit, even when the odds are stacked against them. That kind of teamwork is built on trust, with everyone knowing their place, role and responsibilities.

Successful coaches and teams identify each player’s strengths so that the role they play makes use of these gifts for the team’s overall benefit. Great teams are never satisfied with what they have achieved and look to build upon their strengths for even greater success.

In healthcare, it’s common to continue doing things a certain way because, “That’s the way we have always done it”. In short, if our processes aren’t broken, then why bother fixing them? Virginia Mason care delivery teams have realized that every process has room for improvement. Using the Virginia Mason Production System, teams continually strive for higher levels of performance excellence and an elevated patient experience.

At the Virginia Mason Institute, we recently celebrated one of our strategic partners who was given the highest possible rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) has now become one of just nine trusts in England rated as Outstanding by the CQC. In 2012, the SASH team began their continuous improvement journey with the development of their clinical leadership model. The partnership with Virginia Mason Institute Sensei began in 2015, which drew upon their collective strengths in pursuing improvements in quality, service, delivery and morale. Their hard work and team commitment, from leadership all the way to the front line of care delivery, has paid off.

At Virginia Mason Institute we partner with clients to help them solve their most urgent and emerging issues and build their competence to address any new situation that may arise. We know that a whole team commitment to a reliable performance improvement approach like the Virginia Mason Production System (VMPS) by leaders and front line staff alike can bring about the change organizations like SASH, and many others, crave. We also know that it can also take disruptive and innovative ideas to pursue a cultural shift and get beyond the voices of “we have always done it that way” and “it’s not broken so why fix it.” The complex spinal surgery team at Virginia Mason used VMPS and disruptive innovation to develop breakthrough methods that have reduced surgery complication rates by 36 percent. It’s when every employee looks for continuous improvement opportunities, shares their ideas with their leaders and puts their ideas into action that we can truly transform our organizations.

Virginia Mason Institute

Virginia Mason Institute

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