A few weeks ago at the annual SHSMD conference (Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development), I had the pleasure of joining Kim Hollon (CEO) and Lorraine McGrath (Director of Marketing) of Signature Healthcare (Massachusetts) in delivering a presentation about creating a culture of (patient) safety within a healthcare organization. We shared Signature Healthcare’s amazing story of cultural transformation and the development of an organization-wide commitment to doing the right thing, every time. The cultural change at Signature Healthcare is measurable in the number of medical errors prevented and the decrease in sentinel events. (The Joint Commission defines sentinel events as patient safety events that reach a patient and results in either death, permanent harm or severe temporary harm. They are called sentinel because they signal the need for immediate investigation and response.) Ultimately, improved metrics equate to human lives that were saved or deaths that were prevented.
Every hospital and healthcare organization should hear Signature’s story; and every hospital should involve their marketing team in developing strategies and tactics to address patient safety within the organization. But how many marketing teams actually get to play a role in patient safety? In my experience, not many. Often the involvement is superficial – like reproducing hand hygiene posters from the CDC or some other organization. Those actions are simply not enough to address behavior change – or culture change; and they certainly don’t reflect the importance of this issue. At Signature Healthcare, patient safety is job #1. End of story. They have involved 2,761 employees in a 3.5 hour patient safety training course. 28 employees have been trained as culture of safety instructors. 150 employees have been trained as safety coaches. The goal is to have one coach in every department on every shift. This has been a comprehensive effort.
Because marketers aren’t typically involved in patient safety, presentations on the topic don’t draw large crowds at healthcare marketing conferences. It just isn’t believed to be relevant to most healthcare marketers, and that’s a shame. For our 8:30am presentation at SHSMD, we had a modest but fully engaged crowd. The feedback from attendees, shared in person after the presentation and via Twitter, was terrific. Our rating for the session was a 3.9 out of a possible 4 points. Yet not enough people heard Signature Healthcare’s culture of safety story. It was a great presentation that didn’t reach enough people. Here are some of the comments from the session evaluations:
“This may have been the most valuable session of my entire SHSMD (experience).”
“Where I work, we have struggled to bring patient injuries down, but now I feel like I have the necessary tools for a much-needed and revived campaign.”
“This was the best session I’ve attended at a conference. Very useful, easy to implement ideas that lead to a better experience and outcome for patients. I wish there were more CEO’s like Kim Hollon.”
“This presentation was very well put together, informative and the speakers were well educated on the topic. It was an important topic that many overlook, with underlying messages and concepts that can be applied to several campaigns and initiatives throughout an organization. One of my favorite presentations of the conference!”
“Great session overall.”
“Excellent topic and presenters!”
I am proud of the work that Signature Healthcare has done and appreciate Kim and Lorraine’s willingness to share their story at regional and national conferences. With 400,000+ people dying in the U.S. of preventable medical errors each year, we need to engage marketers in this conversation. It is my firm belief that they need to be part of the solution! In closing, here’s a video we created a couple of years ago about the importance of involving marketers in patient safety initiatives.