10 ways to positively affect healthcare

The healthcare industry is ever-changing; if leaders want to make their own impact, it can be difficult to know where to begin. 

Becker's tapped seven industry leaders for 10 ideas on how hospital and health system leaders, physicians, nurses and medical schools can take action and positively contribute to healthcare today. 

Multiple believe change starts with targeted measures for industry challenges: well-rounded staffing and robust innovation. Others said to lean in to the one thing that never changes with the times, healthcare's core requirement: quality patient care. 

Note: Comments are in leaders' own words, lightly edited for length and clarity.

David A. Acosta, MD. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges + David Skorton, MD. President and CEO of AAMC. 

1. Nurturing the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in action at the nation's medical schools, teaching hospitals and health systems, and academic societies will continue to positively impact the health of communities across the country. This important work prepares tomorrow's doctors and other healthcare professionals to be culturally responsive and consciously aware of the healthcare needs of society, including those who live in historically marginalized and under-resourced communities. Ensuring the ongoing recruitment of diverse classes of talented learners — including medical, graduate and PhD students; post-doctoral researchers; and residents — is necessary for all future physicians and scientists to have the knowledge and skills to improve the health of patients and communities. This is critical to achieving health equity for every community in the nation.

Robyn Begley, DNP, RN. CEO of the American Organization of Nursing Leadership and Senior Vice President and CNO of the American Hospital Association. 

2. Several years ago (pre-pandemic), I was asked a similar question and responded: "As healthcare professionals, it is important we lead by example and focus on our personal health. We need to care for ourselves so we can care for our patients, healthcare team and community." This is even more important in today's challenging healthcare environment as healthcare leaders have become positive role models for their teams. This is one key element of a healthy work environment.

Richard Fogel, MD. Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer of Ascension (St. Louis). 

3. Healthcare is all about providing the best possible care, with the highest safety and quality, to the patients we are privileged to serve. We must always remember to keep the patient at the center of all our decisions. As healthcare leaders, it's our responsibility to provide the physicians, nurses and other clinical professionals with tools and resources they need. It's really very simple, "Take great care of patients, then the rest will fall into place."

Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, RN. President of ANA Enterprise. 

4. The success of the healthcare system depends on the health and safety of those who actually provide care. Healthcare professionals should not have to address long-standing, systemic issues like racism and [diversity, equity and inclusion], mental health and wellness, and safe work environments on their own. We can all positively effect change in healthcare. And when we do this, we are making the health of our patients a priority by ensuring an equitable, safe and healthy environment for healthcare delivery. Yes, healthcare is a business, but it is the business of caring for and improving the lives of the people in our communities. It is ANA's strategic vision to bring about a healthy world through the power of nursing. If we each take a step to do what we can, together we can bring about monumental change in healthcare.

Bob Meyer. President and CEO of Phoenix Children’s.

5. Fostering a high-performing, engaged workforce is vital to our industry. With the cost of recruitment skyrocketing, the focus should be on employee retention and building more efficient pipelines of new talent. Partnering with leading universities in your own backyard helps shore up the talent pipeline while giving tomorrow's health professionals real-world training. 

6. Health systems must also continue to prioritize physician recruitment and retention. At Phoenix Children's, high patient volumes across a range of specialties affords students and new doctors within our 30+ residencies and fellowships the opportunity to participate in rare and challenging patient cases, and many of them elect to stay in Arizona post-training and work with Phoenix Children's. 

A retention strategy centered on empowering clinicians is key. We've given our division chiefs the power and authority to build their programs and recruit the specialists and subspecialists they need in areas such as neurology, gastroenterology and orthopedics. Give your providers the opportunity to grow their careers — whether by becoming a world-class clinician, researcher, medical director or educator — and they are likely to stay.

7. Harnessing the power of data and AI at the patient level empowers providers to deliver the highest-quality care by combining real-time patient information with robust clinical decision support. Doing so has a direct impact on patient safety and outcomes.

At Phoenix Children's, innovation is at the core of our work, and we continually create clinical tools — or dashboards — to do just that. For example, our WATCHER program uses a predictive algorithm and patients' electronic medical records to alert clinicians when a hospitalized child is at risk of deterioration. This allows providers to escalate care concerns before an emergency arises, ensuring our most vulnerable patients receive the care they need — and quickly. Since implementing WATCHER in 2020, there have been zero preventable code events in Phoenix Children's acute care units.

However, more patients are at home than inside our hospitals, so it's important to review health changes and parents' observations, regardless of location. That’s why we’re extending many of our clinical dashboards to home use. One example is our at-home Ketogenic Diet Therapy app, which prompts patients parents or caregivers to submit critical details like ketones, blood glucose and any concerning symptoms like lethargy or vomiting. This information is transmitted to our on-call ketogenic dietitian, providing our care teams with the daily patient data they need to monitor progress while also prompting intervention when needed.

Phoenix Children's dashboards and home monitoring apps now aid in the care of children who have epilepsy, cancer, mental health concerns, and cleft lip and palate, among other concerns.

Bob Sehring. CEO of OSF HealthCare (Peoria, Ill.).

8. In order to be sustainable and to meet the needs of the greatest number of patients, healthcare organizations need to think carefully about how and where they deliver their services and what those services are. We must prudently deploy the limited resources — both human and physical — we have to meet the increasing needs of our aging population across a broad geography. This requires us to be engaged in the communities we serve. Done right, this delivery system redesign will also drive greater quality standards.

9. Healthcare organizations that want to lead rather than follow must work to embed innovation and digital in all aspects of healthcare, creating greater efficiency and access for patients who want to be met where they are.

10. All healthcare systems have had to deal with staffing challenges for several years. Building the pipeline and developing innovative new models of care to fill critical positions now and into the future is vital to become the employer of choice.

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