Healthcare leaders discuss creative problem-solving

Becker's Hospital Review asked healthcare leaders to share how they creatively solved a problem in a previous or current position.

Here are their responses. 

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Jennifer Johnson, DO
Director of medical staff quality, clinical practice committee member at Mayo Clinic Health System (Mankato, Minn.)

In order to get really creative in finding a solution, you have to be fearless in blowing up [the] current state [of things]. You can't be attached to, 'This is how we've always done it.' Then start asking anyone who will listen, even those not in the situation, how they would design the new process. I often will run ideas by my husband or other nonmedical people to get ideas that I may have never considered.

Gil Peri
President and COO of Connecticut Children's Medical Center (Hartford)

Many hospital problems that we have to solve as administrators are related [to] culture and execution. Creating a culture of engagement and transparency drives operational and strategic success. As the COO of a children's hospital it's important to remember that our team members are our most valuable asset. In order to build engagement, I wanted to create an atmosphere that was not only transparent, but fun. We now have monthly leadership meetings that incorporate music, costumes, prizes and decorations. Most recently, our chief financial officer dressed as Cupid to share the five love languages of financial success. We hold quarterly road shows that each have a theme and include things like real-time polling, special guest speakers from the community and team member recognitions. We have successfully moved away from the "death by PowerPoint" style meetings to make things more fun and interactive.  It's a win-win for all. 

Lisa Reynolds, PhD
Vice president of talent management for Christus Health (Irving, Texas)

I utilize a few tools I’ve learned for creative problem-solving. The Beach Ball Conversation form from Fierce Conversations is a valuable tool and helps me see where people are coming from depending on what function they lead and where they sit in an organization. Think of a beach ball and all the different colored stripes. I can’t see the strip on the opposite side of the beach ball so I need to be intentional about hearing what the problem looks like from the other side. This means having a conversation where all the key stakeholders can share their perspective. For example, we had a problem with a vendor over a billing issue. I felt if we couldn’t resolve it we would need to move to another vendor which would be a lot of work for all of our Christus associates – preparing education for the new system, education and additional training for everyone, managing the change, etc. By pulling together a diverse team, I heard from others and learned it wouldn’t be that big of a change to switch vendors. It helped me be clear, direct and firm with the vendor. We were able to resolve the issue and save a lot of valuable time and money.

Crowd sourcing problems has also been a valuable problem solving tool for me. Either through email, a note on the bulletin board, or in meetings – here is a problem I’m struggling with. What is your suggestion? Often answers come from the least likely place you would expect them to.

I also take time to coach myself. I’m an executive coach and I have found just by asking myself questions, I would ask a coachee, I can solve issues with better ideas. I make myself come up with 20 options to solve the issue and usually the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth idea is the best one! Other questions I ask myself: What’s the next step I need to take? What’s preventing me from taking it? What are the risks and benefits if I do take the step? Who can support me?

Ben Spence
Chief financial and business service officer of Lee Health (Fort Myers, Fla.)

For many years, we saw patients in our emergency room at a high rate that were uninsured and had no access to primary care services. And as we brought on a new leadership, we talked about the opportunity to provide primary care services to those who don't have the ability to pay through primary care clinics that operate as federally qualified health clinic lookalikes.

We were able to open four clinics that serve the patients that didn't have access to care because of their lack of insurance and their inability to afford insurance. And these community healthcare clinics have been successful for providing care on a timely basis and in an appropriate setting and at the right cost for people who otherwise would be seen in the emergency room at a high cost.

That was one example of a creative solution to a problem that initially was thought of as something we couldn't afford to do because of the cost of providing primary care. But in the end, it costs less when you reduce your ER utilization and provide care in a lower-cost setting.


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