This week, we are beginning a series of entries about employee involvement in the health care industry. As health care has come under increased scrutiny, employee engagement has emerged as a way to improve delivery systems.
I had the opportunity to attend training presented by Dr. W. Edwards Deming about a year before his death. The session included success stories of a variety of organizations that had successfully implemented his Total Quality Management, engagement, and statistical process control philosophies.
When Dr. Deming was asked what industry he believed would be the last to implement his ideas, he had an immediate answer: health care. He did not believe medical doctors would be willing to accept the input of others or be part of an engagement process.
This opinion is supported by a review of literature about TQM and health care. For example, one article from that time period noted, “doctors do need Deming in their hospitals, not so much to influence their philosophy as to influence senior management to provide them with the appropriate resources to… assure health care payers and patients of the quality and the appropriateness of their practice.” In other words, quality would not change the doctors’ ideas, only show management the doctors were doing well.
Finally, things have begun to change. Many health care systems, including the doctors, have benefited from engaging employees in finding ways to improve their workplaces and the quality of care given to patients while holding down costs.
One example of a highly successful implementation of a team-based philosophy is in the Kaiser Permanente system. In other blog postings, we have mentioned their Labor-Management Partnership as an example of effective employee involvement. Their track record of success in a variety of areas has benefitted virtually everyone touched by their system.
Although there are more examples today of effective employee involvement in the health care industry, there are many more opportunities to realize its benefits. In the next few weeks, we will explore this topic in more detail.