Employee Engagement and Improper Wait Times

For the last two weeks, our blog has been on employee engagement in healthcare.

The blogging on employee engagement in healthcare comes at a great time when we’re hearing about the problem with wait times at some of the VA medical centers. If you haven’t heard about the problem, some VA medical centers may have been providing inadequate care for veterans because of the improper wait time for appointments. There has been a concern these improper wait times have led to greater health concerns.

This an excellent example of a problem that needs to addressed through an employee engagement process.

A continuous improvement team could be put together to address the issue. The team could obtain the data and do some control charting to look at wait times and determine if there were a number of instances occurring outside of the control limits that would help substantiate a problem.

Once the team had that information, they could look more specifically to find out what was causing the problem. Apparently, at least from reports in the media, there was a problem. In one article, it mentioned high turnover of schedulers or not enough schedulers as causes of the problem. These could be issues the team could address.

One of the basic principles of a good employee engagement process is to involve those who actually do the job. This is a classic workplace problem that needs the involvement of those who do the job. Without the knowledge of those who perform the work, the problem cannot be solved. They know the issues they face. They know how the process is supposed to work. They also have ideas on how to improve the system. If there is a high turnover problem, they probably can address the most important question that will help resolve the issue. That question is “why” it is occurring. The high turnover could be related to not enough schedulers but until “why” is answered, no one will really know. They can only guess and that will not help.

The VA’s VistA system has been a model for electronic health records. It was created over 25 years ago and was one of the first, if not the first, electronic system. It has made some improvements to the healthcare of many veterans and it would be a shame for the VA to have their reputation ruined because of this problem. One of the solutions the VA has come up with is to have a contest for developers to redesign the electronic scheduling process. Will that work? We won’t know until a design has been picked but let’s hope a new scheduling process was actually needed and that was the solution decided by a continuous improvement team.

To read more about this issue and the VA’s electronic health record system visit:


About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at http://calmc.org
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