Distilling '100 things' key to simplifying, Providence executive says

In today's challenging healthcare environment, executives are striving for simplicity in operations, technology and investments. This includes Jennifer Burrows, RN, chief executive of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Ore., and Oregon Western Division.

"I really dislike things being complex," she told Becker's. "I'm always trying to figure out how things get easier. It's in my DNA."

She specifically recalled the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a time her team identified and eliminated needless complexity. Data and information related to the virus continued to evolve, forcing healthcare professionals and executives to move at a rapid pace. 

Everyone in healthcare "faced this common enemy and had to figure out how we take care of our communities and our caregivers in our acute-care hospitals [while] dealing with the COVID virus," Ms. Burrows said.

In the early days of the pandemic, her team examined how to keep people focused on the most important things. Providence St. Vincent also focused on ensuring a sustainable foundation to continue to thrive in the long term.

Ms. Burrows said this meant "thinking through how we take the list of 100 things we need to think about, and how we distill those down to a list of manageable goals, ones that really are key to our success. And how do we make sure that we have got the team all focused in those places?" 

For example, previously, the various leadership groups in the hospital create their list of annual goals and objectives Ms. Burrows said. This would include goals around quality, patient experience and finance. This could also include goals around growth in something such as a specific cardiac procedure. 

"Lots of best intention[s] and striving for excellence," Ms. Burrows said. 

"Unfortunately, when combined, all this great work could result in 50 or more goals that could potentially provide less direction than we need to drive results. I made the change to have our executive team gather these goals and then do the hard work of distilling down to the strategic imperatives that will have the most impact. These goals are then shared with the leadership teams and built into our success metrics. They are written on our team meeting agendas and they drive our team agendas to ensure everyone is working on them together."

Hospital goals for this year are to reduce first-year caregiver turnover rate, decrease length of stay and decrease diversions of patients from emergency departments.

Overall, for Ms. Burrows, simplicity comes down to streamlining strategic goals and deciding which metrics matter most. 

"Rather than collecting 10 [metrics], how do we have the hard conversations to distill down to one or two that we really are going to spend our time paying attention to that will be our compass navigation for moving into the future," she said.

Providence St. Vincent has about 2,000 medical staff members. It is part of Renton, Wash.-based Providence. 


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