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With the 2023 NBA Playoffs looming, the last place you’d expect to see Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would be at a healthcare conference. Yet both NBA legends, along with entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, were featured keynote speakers for the Becker’s Hospital Review 13th Annual Meeting in Chicago from April 3rd-6th. Origami Risk’s Anooja Cannon, Senior Healthcare Market Strategy Lead, and Katherine Mahlke, Healthcare Sales Associate, heard from these industry greats and spoke with physicians, frontline staff, and healthcare executives to learn about their most pressing challenges. 

Key themes emerged over the four-day event. Below, Anooja and Katherine share key takeaways from the valuable lessons and best practices shared during the event.

Here are Anooja and Katherine’s Top 5 Takeaways from the Becker’s Hospital Review 13th Annual Meeting.

Meet Patients Where They Are

In a healthcare environment, patient safety and quality care are the priority, playing a direct role in the likelihood of a positive patient experience and, when necessary, in choosing to return for care. Patients should be, as with any business’s customers, top-of-mind. As such, it’s critical to fully understand how to best deliver to them. 

At the Becker’s annual meeting, basketball hall of famer and entrepreneur Magic Johnson provided an anecdote to illustrate the importance of understanding one's customers. Upon investing in over 100 Starbucks locations, many in urban areas, Johnson realized changes were needed. His research showed the target customers were happily paying Starbucks’ prices, but the food options were not worthwhile to them. He took traditional Starbucks pastries like scones and replaced them with pecan pie and peach cobbler. He replaced the typical coffee house jazz music with artists that resonated with the locations’ customers.

“It’s very important you know your customer, and then over-deliver to them. Just delivering isn’t enough.” -Magic Johnson 

Because he understood his customer and their needs, then met them where they were, his changes helped his stores succeed in delivering value to urban parts of the country. Johnson encouraged attendees to apply these lessons to their healthcare organizations to drive success through better patient experience, with the ultimate goal of leading with a patient-first mentality.

Leadership Is About Driving Value

What exactly is value in healthcare? The answer depends on who you ask. For some, it’s found in delivering excellent patient care. For others, it’s making staff feel comfortable, supported, and important. Or maybe it’s driving efficiency and productivity in the workplace. No matter the answer, leadership is about driving value, which starts with supportive and engaged leaders.

One way leaders can drive value is through positive staff engagement which can improve workplace culture and increase learning opportunities. In healthcare, leaders can demonstrate this engagement through intentional and personal leadership rounds. Intentional rounding helps leaders to connect with front-line staff and hear the stories that can get lost in meetings or data. 

Leaders at this year's annual meeting stated that the most effective leadership rounds are those tied to executive goals and incentives. Frequent check-ins from leadership have also been shown to reduce burnout from employees. Ultimately, seeing a healthcare leader on the floor exudes servant leadership and shows that leaders understand and care about their staff and want to support them.

In healthcare, positive patient outcomes are paramount. Leadership success often comes directly from how leaders value those who are directly and indirectly caring for patients. Healthcare leaders must keep this in mind to maintain a culture where people want to work and receive care. It’s important to remember that staff are human, too. Their feelings, goals, and feedback should always be kept in mind. Additionally, when staff feels heard, both safety culture and communication are improved, leading to a culture where staff thrives and better outcomes for the entire organization.

Invest in Technology That “Kills as Many Birds with One Stone”

When planning for the future, panelists agreed it’s imperative that leaders continually ask the question, “How do we better embrace technology?” With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and various tools such as ChatGPT, a plethora of problem-solving technologies are ready for use by healthcare organizations. Speakers at the Becker’s meeting provided various use cases to use technology and AI to promote positive patient outcomes and reduce errors in healthcare settings. Familiar examples included barcode medication administration (BCMA) or smart infusion pumps to administer patient medications more effectively. More complex examples discussed the use of AI to automatically log medication error near misses and leveraging AI models to determine whether patients should have an advanced care planning conversation based on their AI-predicted 3-12-month mortality. While AI-driven technologies can provide innovative benefits, they shouldn’t be adopted because of the “buzz” that surrounds them. New technology needs to solve actual problems and be implemented strategically for the long term. Notably, speakers shared that any AI or data science model must be fair, useful, reliable, and sustainable at scale.

Another technology best practice when investing in integrated systems is to buy technology that “kills as many birds with one stone.” Teams across healthcare organizations often operate in silos. Technology investments can bring workers together across functions, roles, and responsibilities – improving communication, transparency, and efficiency. Technology can also create time-saving benefits to allow providers to focus more on patient care. Organizations can also save time by investing in vendor technology versus building “homegrown,” or proprietary, systems that can be both inflexible and costly to maintain. In full, IT investments in expertly-built systems are key, as long as they check as many boxes as possible.

A ‘Just Culture’ for Reporting

Reporting plays a key role in healthcare as it serves as the foundation for effective communication, informed decision-making, and quality patient care. Due to the nature of patient safety, it’s important to have an easy-to-use, streamlined, and accessible reporting process. A relative reporting example in healthcare is adverse event reporting. For optimal performance, staff should be properly trained on reporting systems and encouraged (even celebrated) to report near misses and adverse events. One example shared around this point is the concept of a "Just Culture" – shifting attention from judgment or blame of others to a focus on system and process improvement. A good indicator of a Just Culture is the number of good catches reported. An increase in reported catches provides leadership with accurate data to make more informed decisions and implement process improvements. One presenter highlighted their Just Culture and what they have done to get there. They described it as a journey, but a worthwhile one, as it ultimately led to them being recognized as a nationally honored top-quality program.

A Just Culture also emphasizes data and insights. Healthcare leaders thrive on actionable, reliable data, which a Just Culture supplies by shifting the focus to process improvements and systematic changes rather than judgment or blame. Conference panelists shared how an integrated approach to data is the backbone of a well-functioning healthcare system, breaking down silos and optimizing delivery. This data leads to enhanced patient outcomes, increased efficiency, and improved healthcare delivery overall. Implementing a Just Culture in an organization provides a framework for successful reporting.

It’s Time to Look Forward in Healthcare

“The hospitals of today are not going to be the hospitals of the future.” - Bradd Busick, SVP & CIO, MultiCare

A final takeaway from this year’s Becker’s Annual Meeting was a call to level up in digital transformation and the use of technology to engage customers; areas in which Healthcare has lagged behind other industries. Whether it’s budgetary restrictions, a lack of time, or a lack of understanding, healthcare-related processes are one of the last in modern times to embrace the digital transformation seen across other industries, a topic highlighted in Origami Risk’s 2023 State of Risk report.

Sessions throughout the meeting supported this same idea. Throughout the event, the healthcare industry was often compared to the aviation industry with a similarity in numbers related to preventable harm. While the aviation industry is often considered the standard for preventing avoidable harm, there’s no reason to believe healthcare can’t get to similar numbers. Today, the healthcare industry is already taking lessons from aviation and industrial settings by borrowing best practices for process improvements and safety initiatives. Examples include the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) method or the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) tool for risk identification and reduction. With the mission across the healthcare industry to reach a place of zero harm, every step healthcare professionals can take to facilitate optimal results, improve patient safety care, and reduce errors is a step towards eliminating harm.

To summarize: 

  1. Patients are priority #1. To best serve them, meet them where they are. 
  2. Leadership is about value, and it starts with caring for your staff. 
  3. Technology is so advanced today: leverage it to make your life easier. 
  4. Implement a ‘Just Culture’ to aggregate your data and improve reporting processes.
  5. Healthcare is changing, don’t be a laggard.