For decades, healthcare has been a difficult and highly regulated enterprise. Before 2013, senior managers and the boards that supervise them could count on an industry that was stable and predictable.
However, this changed with the abrupt change in reimbursement and changes in standards for quality and safety for patients that are changing the way healthcare organizations operate to remain competitive. These changes have created new challenges for healthcare boards.
The opinion leaders we spoke to during the course of this study identified three kinds of healthcare board behaviors they considered to be crucial.
A reputable board should insist on the correct information. It must emphasize the importance of quality and safety goals and provide trustees with realistic targets. This includes making use of National Quality Forum-endorsed measures and creating a robust benchmarking process that pinpoints the best performers and identifies the methods they use. The aim is to empower trustees to challenge every hospital and system to improve quality and eliminate medical errors.
The board should also solicit the help of trustees who are experts in the science of quality and safety (e.g. high reliability, Six Sigma) to be on and chair the quality committee of the board. The ideal is for these individuals to be drawn from other industries, such as nuclear power or aviation. This will ensure that the board has a specialist on hand to guide the CEO and other staff in establishing and achieving appropriate targets and ensuring that the healthcare leadership is doing everything it can to improve performance.