By Elise Sinha, Jennifer Lewis and Evans Kerrigan
Culture change is hard work. For Hartford HealthCare (HHC), it begins with some clearly articulated vision statements — depicting our destination in a way that captivates and motivates.
HHC has embarked on a journey to use technology as a true partner in care. It involves adapting to new technologies, modernizing and changing nearly everything throughout the five-hospital system, as well as its ambulatory practices and service lines. As with any system-wide project to provide exceptional service to the patients and coordinate all aspects of care, it is a massive undertaking.
We began with a way to share our vision. Staff and leaders created clear and compelling stories about how our future should look once the multi-year system and process changes were in place. This “visioning” process was at once aspirational and inspirational.
A strong team was gathered during 2013 from the organization to lead the transformation efforts and the Epic CareConnect project took flight in January 2014.
Our technical and organizational goal is to bring all of HHC’s entities onto a single electronic platform for clinical, business and revenue needs. In addition, it is our ambition to standardize care, processes and procedures regardless where our patients encountered our services.
This led us to create what we call “The Five Ones”:
- One health record
- One standard of excellence
- One relationship
- One registration
- One bill
We reference these at leadership gatherings, and continue to point to them as our end goal.
Since story-telling is a core part of our corporate culture, we refer often to two fictional characters: “Betty” and “Janet.” We want to turn “Betty’s Story” into “Janet’s Story.” Betty contends with a healthcare system that is disjointed, disconnected, frustrating and confusing. Her chronic health conditions go unmanaged because there is little true care coordination. Janet, on the other hand, experiences the type of care we are creating: one that is fully connected, and supports the patient and the family with a seamless, timely flow of information and care transitions across the continuum. “Betty” and “Janet” are part of our vocabulary.
The Ongoing Challenge
For more than two years, people across the system worked on redesign, standardization and creating a platform for best practice. The work was long, tiring, challenging and, frankly, frustrating at times — like most important things in life.
Changes in technology forced processes throughout the system to be reviewed and standardized to ensure that they were delivering the best value and service to their patients. HHC is a young system, and this project demanded staff, departments, and entities to adapt to significant change quickly. Most of this standardization was led and facilitated by the CareConnect project analysts, who were understandably met with resistance and skepticism, at least initially. There was so much groundwork to be done before the fruits of that labor can be seen, that it was easy to be worn down by the battle.
In addition to the struggles of the project itself, healthcare faced external struggles that further impacted the project. The corporation faced an unusually harsh state business climate, with Medicaid payments being withheld; reductions in workforce; and a changing overall economic environment. Amid all the turbulence, some people left the quest for calmer waters, which led to unease and lowered morale for those who stayed. All of this added to the stress of the project team and its customers, further highlighting the criticality of reinforcing and staying true to our vision statements.
Refreshing the Call to Action
Two leaders of large divisions of the project team felt they needed to recharge their own batteries and signed up for The Leadership Challenge® workshop. As they went through the practice of Inspire a Shared Vision, they saw a critical need for the vision to be more front-and-center for themselves and also their staff.
As they started to work on crafting their own visions, Jennifer Lewis, Revenue Cycle Application Director, and Elise Sinha, Acute Care Application Director, teamed up to build a vision for their valuable, hard-working and tired teams.
As they crafted their new vision, they wanted to convey how much they valued their staff and remind them that, although the work was long and hard, it was the why they were doing the work that was so important. Elise and Jennifer knew that the vision of why the team was created was strong in the beginning of the project, but staff had forgotten as the work got harder, the scope got bigger, and the stakes got higher. The end product after several drafts and feedback from other leaders is the following:
You make Janet’s care a reality.
You make The Five Ones real.
You are the dream makers.
Without this team, those dreams are just ideas and hope.
Like the Disney imaginers, you turn ideas into a technical reality.
You are making healthcare happen in this new model.
You have connected the dots for Janet’s story from inception, design, through build, testing, training, and implementation.
We are scaling the summit together.
Betty never had a chance to live the experience, but Janet will.
Thanks to you, soon all our patients will have that experience, and can focus on healing, instead of navigating a complex and confusing healthcare system, confident that their caregivers have access to all of their clinical information.
The work you do is so very important.
Upon creating and sharing this vision with their workshop friends, they debated how to bring this back to Hartford HealthCare. How would the vision be perceived by the staff and other leaders across the CareConnect team? Jennifer and Elise were not sure what the reaction would be, but were eager to share how reconnecting with the vision had reenergized them for the hard work and challenges still remaining.
An opportunity presented itself much sooner than they anticipated, when they were given the opportunity to share their vision at a staff meeting with more than 140 attendees. The feedback they received was very positive, with staff and leadership giving Elise and Jennifer feedback including the following:
- “It gave me goose-bumps and almost made me cry.”
- “I really needed to hear that today. It turned my week around.”
- “Your vision made me remember why I took this job.”
Presenting at a staff meeting is one thing, but how would this new vision become part of the daily fiber of the hard work that was still ahead for the staff? Luckily, the project team had recently started daily huddles to improve communication, share recognition and resolve work barriers. Elise and Jennifer posted the vision statement on the team huddle boards and referenced portions of the statement on a weekly basis. Staff were invited to stop at the board and re-read the vision whenever they were feeling overwhelmed, challenged, or worn out.
By incorporating the vision statement into quick leadership tips for the staff on a weekly basis, they made the vision one of the basic tenets of the program, much like The Five Ones and Janet’s story had become for HHC team members. Their team is able to not only see the vision, but better connect to the progress made toward realizing it for the healthcare system.
As important to the success of the vision statement for the staff was the impact it had on Elise and Jennifer. As an outcome of the exercise of writing the statement, both leaders had a renewed focus on staff recognition, engagement, and being solution-oriented with the leadership team for staff retention and morale. They exhibited more confidence in the staff’s success, their ability to make it over the finish line, and the value this project brings to the community for whom HHC cares.