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Consumer Reports Study Determines Need for Better Selection Systems in Healthcare

June 9, 2011
Consumer Reports recently reported that some of our top teaching hospitals don’t perform well in reducing infection rates.  From a summary in FierceHealth:

Consumer Reports researchers looked at bloodstream infections developed while on central-line catheters or tubes used to deliver medication and fluid to ICU patients. They focused on teaching hospitals and found no improvement from the previous year in terms of zero infections.”  Meanwhile some smaller community hospitals have eliminated central line infections.

"Bottom [l]ine: Research has repeatedly shown that hospitals, even large urban ones, can dramatically reduce and even eliminate central-line infections," states Consumer Reports.

John Santa, MD, MPH, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, goes on to say:

"For the process to work, each individual has to make a commitment to perform each step each time, and have the courage to correct their colleague when they see an error has been made."

Dr. Santa hit the nail on the head.  You can implement every technology and process known to medical science, but eliminating infection rates comes down to people!  Here’s the problem:  The traditional healthcare hiring process does nothing to assess a candidate’s willingness or ability to “perform each step, each time” and to “have the courage to correct their colleague”?  Given what’s at stake in healthcare today – the financial solvency of the system itself, not to mention the safety of patients, how can we not take steps to implement a selection system that evaluates these competencies?  Clinical skills and the candidate’s CV aren’t the critical factors.  If they were, our top teaching hospitals, which generally attract “top talent,” would be leading the way in reducing these infections.  You can’t believe how often we hear hospitals say that they are “planning” on implementing a better selection system, but they have other priorities.  The reality is that every hiring decision you make impacts the care you provide, probably more so than implementing Lean or buying some new technology.  It’s time to get our priorities straight and set the bar higher by demanding certain behaviors from every employee, every time.  The first step is to only bring people into the organization who are going to make that happen.  Other industries do it.  Just like we are looking to other industries for improving process, we need to adopt selection strategies that we know work.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.