This in-depth feature article is shared courtesy of the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals (AHAP). It first appeared in the “Briefings on The Joint Commission, and was written by AHAP Director Matt Phillon.
There were some key lessons to take away from this near-death hospital experience. First, the fundamental ingredient to any hospital’s success is leadership. Not just at the top, but unit to unit.
“We had a lot of good people in a very siloed organization,” says Fenner. “They didn’t share problems, and they didn’t have the data to drive improvement or tell you how fast you were going.”
This incident provided them with a blinding light of change and they chose to change in the right direction, she says.
Also, there truly was no malicious intent that got them where they ended up, explains Fenner.
“My experience is that in 99 percent of cases, they want to see the right thing happen,” she says. “You don’t find evil intent. They just didn’t know how to reach out for help.”
The cost of this process was perhaps the greatest lesson. The organization had to burn through their reserves, keeping their doors open with just five patients in the hospital. It led the organization to embark on a strategic affiliation.
“They went from an independent community hospital to a system hospital. They are now part of a good system, with access to other benefits—but the hospital, had this not happened, was a growing organization ready to thrive,” says Fenner.
And despite the nightmare of having survived decertification, good things came from this event.
“The community still has its hospital, the doctors still have a place to practice, people can still work there, and they avoided the loss of the economic engine that would have been lost if the hospital closed,” says Fenner. “They stayed the course.”
And there is a lesson in this for hospital leadership across the country.
“The core business of a hospital is not margin or growth, it’s clinical care,” says Fenner. “And if you’re giving good clinical care, you’ll get your margin and growth. If you don’t pay attention to the basics, you open yourself up to all kinds of trouble.”