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Top Tips from High-Performing Hospitals

In order to provide optimal patient care, hospitals need healthy employees. To address the challenges of keeping staff members and patients healthy, hospital administrators look at applying best practices from high-performing hospitals, and endorsed by the Joint Commission and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

The Joint Commission has endorsed some key operational processes of High Reliability Organizations (HROs) that can serve hospitals as they continually seek to improve employee and patient care:

5 Operational Processes of HROs1

  1. Operational sensitivity: Workers in high reliability organizations follow procedures and are mindful of interactions between team members. With a keen awareness of how the operations are functioning, workers can sense even minor deviations and respond appropriately.
  2. Explore problems in their entirety: When outcomes are not in line with established plans, high reliability teams question conventional explanations for why things went wrong.
  3. Defer to expertise, not title: Team members and organizational leaders of HROs learn to defer to the person with the most knowledge relevant to the issue they are confronting, rather than the title attached to the issue.
  4. Resilience and continual learning: High reliability teams are continuously focused on the gaps – looking for ways the system could potential fail – and closing the gaps with constant communication in order to minimize adverse consequences.

The strategies to become a high reliability organization (HRO) are very similar to the ones used by hospitals participating in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) to manage workforce safety and health. VPP recognizes workplaces that demonstrate excellence in implementing an effective occupational safety and health management system. Under VPP, employers and employees continually monitor the workplace for hazards and then cooperate to find and implement solutions. All of this happens within a Plan-Do-Study-Act management system framework that should be familiar to hospital leaders.

Fourteen hospitals have achieved VPP status. Here are some best practice ideas from a few of them as outlined in OSHA’s Integrating Patient and Workplace Safety Programs.

Best Practice Examples from VPP Hospitals1

  • Each shift at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut begins with a “safety huddle” led by a senior hospital executive. All departments, including both medical and support services, are required to attend. Together they review any patient or associate safety issues or concerns, recognize “good catches” (near misses), and share updates on the status of any safety-related projects or initiatives—either in process or on the horizon. These daily exchanges, foster in an open, no-blame environment, and help create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation.
  • Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has piloted an ultraviolet room disinfection robot that can reach every surface in a room and disinfect 30 rooms in a day. Use of the robots protects both patients and staff from common hospital pathogens, such as influenza, norovirus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA), and prevents exposure to hazardous chemical disinfectants.
  • Laundry staff at Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth, Ohio previously performed tasks that involved the repeated lifting of heavy loads of laundry, often in awkward postures. To reduce strains from lifting, the hospital ergonomics staff redesigned the laundry cart unloading area to incorporate a mechanical tipping system.
  • Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee monitors its staff’s cumulative radiation exposure using sensor badges clipped to the employees’ jackets.
  • At University Medical Center at Brackenridge in Austin, Texas, all employees, including 100% of on-site contractor staff, receive high reliability safety behavior training.

At Venato, we know that you strive for operational excellence every day, and your time is precious. We’re here to help.

Venato’s comprehensive occupational health management software solution links your employee health records with your HR system, makes NHSN flu vaccination reporting as easy as copy-and-paste, and automatically emails vaccination booster reminders. At your fingertips, you can trend health event history by employee, job title, or department, and know exactly where to focus your time through training and process improvements.

To learn more about how Venato can help you improve employee and patient care, join us for an upcoming webinar and ask about our risk-free, money back Satisfaction Guarantee!


1  Source:  OSHA document “Integrating Patient and Workplace Safety Programs





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