A Natural Fit: Continuous Improvement in Healthcare IT

Four tips to starting a culture of improvement in healthcare technology

Computer and tablet physician

As an Administrative Director of Continuous Improvement, Robert Kenney has been coaching hospital leaders and clinical teams at Cleveland Clinic for 14 years. For a change of pace, this year Kenney is bringing his expertise to Cleveland Clinic’s IT division. Drawing on his clinical experience, Kenney has already started a receptive adoption process. He shares the following tips for health systems looking to do the same for their tech teams.

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1. Introduce Continuous Improvement as a valuable solution.

A common misconception is that Continuous Improvement is just one more process to learn on top of all the other processes teams are learning and managing. However, Continuous Improvement is meant to help transform and make existing processes more efficient. “Teams often say, ‘I don’t have time for this; I have too many projects I’m already working on,’” Kenney says. “But that’s because they’re losing time doing things over and over. What Continuous Improvement does is streamline those existing workflows and take the waste out. You end up saving more time in the end.”

“Once teams get a better understanding of what Continuous Improvement is, they get excited,” continues Kenney. “The managers want it when they see the value.” As an added bonus, Kenney notes many IT caregivers are already familiar with process standardization and agile methodologies, making adoption second nature.

2. Offer easily accessible training in multiple forms.

Cleveland Clinic’s Continuous Improvement intranet page provides a centralized space for training resources, A3 templates and other relevant information. These materials are accessible to all caregivers at any time. Cleveland Clinic embeds program directors, such as Kenney in specific areas for custom onsite coaching, shadowing opportunities, facilitation and support. Additionally, Solutions for Value Enhancement (SolVE), a hands-on 12-week program gives caregivers the chance to work on enterprise improvement projects and apply Continuous Improvement tools.

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3. Meet teams where they are.

For teams and leaders with limited availability, consider asking to reserve a few minutes during recurring meetings to squeeze in Continuous Improvement training and information sharing on a regular basis.

4. Engage deliberately.

Buy-in from leadership drives broader adoption. Be strategic in selecting your first model projects in your area. If training sessions or meetings are virtual, ask that cameras stay turned on.

Kenney reflects, “People don’t usually think of healthcare IT as patient-facing, but they still touch patients every day with the processes they set out.” With the ever-expanding role of technology in healthcare implementation, communications and documentation, incorporating Continuous Improvement methodologies in healthcare IT will be key to ensuring quality patient care.