While it may be tempting for the general public to believe that most hospital error results from a lack of skill on the part of medical professionals, the truth is that a large portion of hospital error occurs as a direct result of poor design on a systematic level. For example, in a nation with a growing community of citizens who do not speak English as a first language, many hospitals struggle to put forth a full team of bilingual staff to assist with non-English-speaking patients. While the hospital staff may be entirely medically qualified, this creates a language barrier that results in inefficiency at best and potentially life-threatening gaps in terminology at worst.
Though the education of hospital staff is often years-long and extensive, new hires may be overwhelmed by incredible pace a modern hospital demands of its workers during busy periods. New hospital staff, depending on hospital capacity and patient demand, may be forced to sacrifice individual attention (both to themselves and to their patients) in order to maximize efficiency and minimize a patient’s length of stay. In order to combat burnout, hospitals should implement feedback loops in order to track the development of new hospital staff, as well as their personal satisfaction with their ever-changing environment. Feedback loops should prompt new medical professionals about their experiences, as well as providing refresher training during the first two years of employment. The first three months of a new hospital staff member’s career can be essential in determining whether or not he or she remains in the healthcare industry, so feedback loops should be mandatory, lest more experienced hospital staff compromise their feedback obligations to new staff.
Managerial shortfalls may also drastically inhibit hospitals from providing better service. This has to do with the disconnect that exists in many large hospitals between the hospital funding source and its knowledge base. Frequently, large hospitals have trustee boards that determine major fiscal decisions, including from which distributors to order supplies, as well as standards and practices for the procedures and services offered by the entire hospital. Unfortunately, many hospital trustees are unfamiliar with the day-to-day aspects of hospital operations, and may have little to no experience in practicing medicine. Yet, clinicians (that is to say, practicing physicians) are the ones responsible for providing better service to patients during routine hospital operations, as well as having the misfortune of being the party that many patients blame when hospital services are rendered poorly. Often these clinicians have little say in major policy decisions for the hospital, given that they typically do not serve on directing boards. This can lead to further discouragement among clinicians as they often perceive central business decisions as a direct cut to hospital services.
In order to prevent the perception among medical professionals that their input does not matter (and the corresponding difficulties that creates for new hires), hospitals should directly involve senior clinicians in the decision-making process. Similar to the feedback loops for new hires, hospital administrators should elicit frequent feedback from hospital staff regarding potential changes to hospital standards and practices. Administrators should aim to create a professional climate where any employee feels he or she has the power to produce and implement a sound idea.