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How to Start an Employee Suggestion Program at Your Hospital

Posted on September 11, 2014

Professionals who work in hospitals are generally pretty smart individuals, who more often than not focus on quality and effectiveness of care. Front-line staff can recognize where things are wasteful or need improvement. And with all those IVs, medications, paperwork, HIPAA restrictions and other challenges, there’s usually a best practice or two that can be refined.

In other words, there are problems to be solved.

But what if a problem can also be the solution? Hospitals can save money and time through a defined and structured employee suggestion program that focuses on operational efficiency, supply-savings, safety and improved quality of care.

If you’re not sure where to start with a hospital suggestion program then it can be broken down to its simplest form in four easy steps: define, gather, process and implement.

Step 1: Define Participants

First, you need to define who will be involved in the program. Will it be every department, or will you focus on only the service areas (such as housekeeping, facilities, dining, etc.)? Who will be able to participate? Visiting physicians as well as internal staff, or only residents? Nurses? Technicians? Hospitals generally have a high volunteer ratio. Will they be able to participate? How about patients and external vendors?

Defining up-front who can participate will save you a boatload of headaches later.

Step 2: Gather Ideas

Second, you need to gather employee ideas. This means that you need to market the program internally so that team members are aware of its existence. One way people have seen success in promoting awareness is by starting an internal campaign for ideas. “Fresh Ideas Fall,” or “Internal Improvement Month” can help jumpstart your new program.

Once people are aware of the program, and see that it is being taken seriously by other staff members, they are more likely to submit ideas.

Step 3: Process the Suggestions

For the program to be successful, you’ll need to take these ideas into consideration on a regular basis. You can’t have a successful program if the ideas are only being reviewed every six months or so. Whether there is a review board, a stand-alone position, or this is worked into managers’ job descriptions, someone needs to be held accountable. This way, suggestions reach the people who can take action.

Every suggestion should be completed with a problem defined, a proposed solution and how it benefits the hospital. There should be an organized system for this information to be communicated clearly, so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

To ensure an open dialogue and consistent participation, each suggestion should be taken seriously. Even if the solution isn’t right (and even if it might seem kinda ridiculous on the face), there can still be a discussion about the problem addressed. A potential solution can arise from any alternatives suggested.

Step 4: Implement the Ideas

This step is key. If you aren’t putting employee suggestions into action, then there will never be anything to show from your employee suggestion program. The sooner this is done, the better. Your suggestion program won’t see results until the ideas are put into play.

The reason that timing is so important here is because seeing fast results will both encourage employees to submit more ideas. It will give them confidence in the suggestion program. Plus, you will benefit from huge cost savings, time improvements, or whatever other benefit this suggestion yielded.

Implementation can take form in a pilot program or a hospital-wide improvement. If your program is new, a pilot can be a great option to show how effective employee suggestions are and how they can benefit the organization as a whole.

Hospitals That Rock Employee Suggestions:

By now you’re convinced that an employee suggestion program can help your hospital run more efficiently. However, it’s important to see how this strategy plays out at an actual hospital to truly understand the potential. This leads us to the examples of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor Michigan.

Beth Israel

Beth Israel’s Dr. Steven Horng suggested a pilot program using Google Glass in the emergency department. He believed that the futuristic device could help cut down time wasted looking through files. Even just a few minutes in trauma medicine can be the difference between life and death. Instead of leafing through files, the device’s tiny glass can display patient information--hands free.

The usefulness of this suggestion was proven one night in January 2014. A patient with a brain bleed told Dr. Horng that he was allergic to certain blood pressure medicines but couldn’t recall which ones. Since Horng had the device on hand (or face) he could easily look it up and administer the correct medication within seconds. Now, every doctor uses Google Glass in the Beth Israel ER. Here’s hoping this leads to a time-saving medical innovation used throughout the entire healthcare field.

University of Michigan Health System

At the University of Michigan Hospital, John Forsyth established the M-$hare program. This program rewards the innovative and hard work of hospital employees. It sought to “help cut costs and inefficiencies to place the institution at a competitive advantage.” Instead of waiting for the organization to fail, they decided they needed to be innovative in small bursts in order to stay competitive and have more money to reinvest into the hospital.

The route they took was to create a team to handle incoming employee ideas. This team was in charge of processing all employee ideas and implementing the ones that would positively impact the organization. Over a five-year time span, this pilot program totaled approximately $17.5 million in cost savings and additional revenue.

With a hospital employee suggestion program, you have the potential to tap into one of your most valuable innovation resources-- your employees. Here at Vocoli, we streamline this process through a proven workflow to help all types of organizations reap the benefits of employee ideas. If you are interested in learning more about how to implement an employee suggestion program in your hospital, reach out today.


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