Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Leading Change: Progression to the Future at Hospital Sisters Health System

Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Leading Change: Progression to the Future at Hospital Sisters Health System

Article excerpt

Summary *

Leadership is essential when a healthcare organization seeks to transform itself. The leaders of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) successfully transformed their organization to an innovative method of service called Care Integration. This article explains the leadership principles behind this transformation, and describes how the leadership team engaged physicians as partners and participants in the change and ensured the information systems needed to support the change were available.

LEADING IN CHALLENGING TIMES

Two years ago, the leadership of Hospital Sisters Health System realized that challenging times were ahead. None of our hospitals were in terrible trouble, but we recognized that much in healthcare needed to be reformed. We did not want to get politically involved in the healthcare reform debate; instead, we wanted to do what we as providers could best do to transform ourselves. We wanted to lead our system through this change thoughtfully and carefully.

The Hospital Sisters of Saint Francis, through the 13 Local System hospitals of HSHS, serve our communities with 9,450 colleagues in Illinois and 6,270 colleagues in Wisconsin. Understanding that leadership today is more than having a vision and charisma, we assessed the situation and began to plan strategically for the future. We considered our assets building blocks for the future. We also considered our problems, the barriers to success, and the nature of our challenge to be leaders in reforming the healthcare system.

Early in this process we decided on three guiding principles: 1) We would focus on improving the patient experience; 2) we would support our physicians and other clinicians; and 3) we would create a new system of care that could be replicated among all of our hospitals.

Leading change in a challenging healthcare environment may be more difficult than leading change during good economic times, but it does offer certain opportunities. For example, we chose to become a lean organization, reducing waste and redundancy while designing care that is cost effective, high quality, and focuses on the patient. During tough times, choosing to be highly efficient is easy.

READINESS FOR CHANGE

One of our most important assets is the Sisters' legacy of healing and caring, which stretches back to 1875, when we established our first hospitals in Illinois. We knew our transformation would help us continue this legacy. With healthcare reform being so prominently debated in public, there was a sense of urgency to this mission. We felt this urgency would propel us as we planned the future. We recognized that this sense of urgency had to be real, rather than contrived, and that our journey toward the future had no room for complacency. Our goal was to create an environment in which the mission of the Hospital Sisters could be demonstrated in the way we care for patients, their families, and our communities.

Another important asset is the people here, including the clinicians, managers, and support colleagues. Our leaders represent all of the demographic groups in our area, including those of different age groups, genders, and cultures. To be successful in leading change, the HSHS team purposefully set out to involve all of our leaders in the progression to the future. Valuing the special attributes of each of our communities, we recognized that we wanted to strengthen the system while also retaining the attributes that make each of our organizations effective in their respective communities. The mission and values of the Hospital Sisters of Saint Francis are the glue that unites people in our organization. Leading change in healthcare provides the motivation to become leaders of the future (Figure i).

CHANGE DRIVERS

While our journey has been challenging and overwhelming at times, we began knowing that financially HSHS is sound, that we have a strong legacy, that we have talented leaders. …

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