Leadership and Empathy

Leadership and Empathy
By Benjamin Zigun, MD, JD, MBA, Chair of Psychiatry, Griffin Hospital, Derby, CT
This article is part two of a two-part series. Part One can be found here.

Benjamin Zigun photoIn Part 1 of this series, we explored the importance of empathy, particularly in regard to the provision of healthcare to patients and by extension to their family members.  We concluded that while there can be circumstances that try our patience, when it comes to interactions with patients and their families, maximal empathy should be encouraged and demonstrated.  In Part 2, we consider the leader’s role in healthcare, how the role has grown more complex, and we focus on the interplay between leadership and empathy.

Qualities of Effective Leaders

Much has been written on defining leadership.  Successful leadership requires the ability to secure and maintain an engaged group of followers who will join the leader in their mission and on the organization’s journey over time.  Great leaders inspire.  They identify gaps or opportunities for improvement, and they bridge those gaps by guiding an organization out of its comfort zone.  Sometimes small changes are needed, and other times there needs to be significant creative destruction.  Great leaders foster cohesive teams and system approaches that bring organizations to the next level.  The Sine Qua Non for leadership may be the ability to connect with and motivate others; these involve the ability to communicate with respect and compassion (which are similar but not identical to empathy).  Without the capacity to motivate, the leader will lose followers (see Figure 1 for a list of qualities of effective leaders). Continue reading “Leadership and Empathy”

Leadership and Empathy

Leadership and Empathy
By Benjamin Zigun, MD, JD, MBA, Chair of Psychiatry, Griffin Hospital, Derby, CT

Benjamin Zigun photoThis article is part one of a two-part series. Part II will run in April.

There seems to be ever-increasing focus on empathy in the healthcare space.   We can speculate as to the reasons, but empathy is nothing new. Hippocrates directed Primum No Nocere, “First Do No Harm,” probably while teaching his students under a Planetree. Because healthcare can be intrusive if not invasive, the interviewing, examining and treating of patients without regard to empathy, in my view, can and does create harm. During a healthcare crisis, patients and their families are typically in their most vulnerable states and we find that empathy emerges as a critical component to their care.

In this first of a two-part series, we will focus on empathy broadly, and particularly how it relates to interactions between providers and patients/families. In Part 2, we will focus on the topic of healthcare leadership broadly and specifically on the interaction between healthcare leadership and empathy, which arguably is dynamic and very complex.  There we will explore empathy between providers and their peers, supervisors and employees, and a healthcare facility and its community.

Technical Excellence Must Not Come at the Expense of Empathy

I attended the 2014 Planetree International Conference in Chicago and was deeply impressed by a quote by Alexandra Drane, a keynote speaker and thought-leader in healthcare. She said, “Empathy is the single biggest missing ingredient in the healthcare space.” The Griffin Hospital cohort that attended the conference held a debriefing meeting shortly after returning to Connecticut, and we reviewed lessons learned. We reached a consensus that Ms. Drane’s comment was profound, as it was both disturbing and accurate, and it merited follow up. We subsequently convened several sessions of an empathy strike force to explore ways to amplify empathy at Griffin Hospital as part of our Planetree journey. Continue reading “Leadership and Empathy”

Leveraging the Human Factor in Healthcare Performance

Leveraging the Human Factor in Healthcare Performance: Highlights from the 2015 International Planetree Conference
By Lisa Platt, MS, CPC-PI, CSSBB, EDAC, LEED AP BD+C, Planetree Director of Business & Product Development

Being a Planetree staff member during the month of October, the hallmark of Patient Centered Care Awareness month and, of course, the longest running conference worldwide in patient centered care, e.g. the legendary Planetree International Conference, is a little like what I imagine being part of the production crew of a major Broadway musical must be like.  All of us are working to champion and promote the work of our remarkable affiliates and partners on the world’s largest stage solely dedicated to Patient and Resident Centered Care, while simultaneously ensuring those participants relatively new to this event are getting the very most out of their experience.  I believe any of us that have been repeatedly immersed in this annual occasion can attest it is both heady and exciting, with so many moving parts and opportunities for learning that it helps to take stock of our own personal knowledge gains after we’ve had a chance to return back to the everyday “life as we know it” mode for a while.  This was certainly true for me given the abundance of incredible content that this year’s conference held.

Patient-Centered Performance Improvement Conference Session Recap

One of the focuses of our many conference learning tracks is “Patient Centered Performance Improvement.” Because that is the world I live in on a regular basis, it is admittedly a topic I gravitate to every year during this occasion.  I am always eager to learn what new and innovative ways our affiliates and partners are using to engage patients, residents, and families in co-designing care improvement.  This year certainly did not disappoint.  I came away, once again, inspired by the seemingly endless creativity that our presenters and panelists shared with us regarding how they mobilize and maintain continuous improvement in their respective organizations. PCPI 1

The panel discussion led by Planetree’s Christy Davies with patient centered performance improvement subject matter experts Teresa Robinson from Central Peninsula Hospital, Joan Stephens from Maury Regional Medical Center, and CarolAnne White from Longmont United Hospital offered some enlightening ways that these three facilities coupled performance improvement techniques with unit led initiatives as a pathway to achieving Planetree Designation.

The brilliant and ebullient Marge Rogan, from Planetree Bronze Recognized Northport VAMC demonstrated how their high performing hospital makes Veteran-Centered improvement visible through ongoing incremental environmental enhancements and signal detection.

Dr. Ken Dobuler of Planetree’s flagship hospital Griffin Hospital and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine along with Kathleen Martin, Vice President, Patient Safety and Care Improvement at Griffin Hospital discussed how they are pursuing “High Reliability with a Heart” in their efforts to improve both patient quality and experience of care.

Ilkay Baylam from Anadolu Medical Center, a John Hopkins affiliate hospital located in Gebze, Kocaeli, and Istanbul shared the compelling story of how he is using his own experience as a new father who recently had his newborn son spend a prolonged period of time in their NICU.  Typical of the character we have come to expect and respect of our Patient Centered Partner in Turkey, he is using this deeply personal episode to meaningfully improve and inexorably change families’ experience of care paradigm in their hospital. You can read more about his efforts here .

Our valued partner in Human-Centered Design and Visionary Design Network pioneer Herman Miller, discussed how adaptive and resilient environment of care infrastructure can be instrumental in guiding consistent patient centered care delivery performance.

PCPI 2Finally, I personally had the unique pleasure of co-facilitating a Masterclass with one of Planetree’s new partners in the United Kingdom, Inspiration NW.  We discussed how the symbiosis of stories and statistical analysis can offer a reliable approach that is both sympathetic and systems based. We demonstrated tools and techniques for gathering the stories behind the data and why this is critical for understanding where and how to leverage improvement based resources. There were several others and I have been slowly but surely wending my way through the many other presentations that were also focused on Patient and Resident Centered Improvement. Continue reading “Leveraging the Human Factor in Healthcare Performance”

Teaching, Learning and Reflecting: Behaviors that Promote Compassionate Interactions

Teaching, Learning and Reflecting: Behaviors that Promote Compassionate Interactions
By Steve Horowitz, MD, Medical Director of Planetree and Cardiac Care, Cardiology Chief Emeritus Stamford Hospital

A couple of months ago I underwent training to become a facilitator for Planetree’s recently introduced Compassionate Interactions Program.  Along with nine colleagues from Stamford Hospital, our two day course took us on a journey of didactics, personal exploration and role playing. Our group included three physicians from different specialties, two medical practice managers, members from our clinical oversight and finance teams and two members of our Planetree team. heart-and-heartbeat-web

Of course, I like to think my patients receive compassionate care, but I’m reminded that 80% of car drivers also consider themselves above average. I’m also well aware of the many surveys that show a variety of healthcare workers, including physicians, are not infrequently clueless when it comes to knowing what patients and family members are thinking, let alone feeling.  This message was brought home early by our Planetree guide in this experience, Jim Kinsey who pointed out that in one study 71% of physicians assumed women with newly diagnosed breast cancer thought saving the breast was their top priority, while in reality only 7% confirmed this to be so. As it turns out, decades of surveys that compare what medical administrators, nurses and other healthcare workers think they know about patients’ top priorities show they rarely get the order right. This is not surprising, since pretty much everyone in healthcare is consumed with quality measurements, readmissions, documentation and other tasks just designed to keep the ship afloat. Continue reading “Teaching, Learning and Reflecting: Behaviors that Promote Compassionate Interactions”


Driving Personal and Organizational Performance through Reward and Recognition
By Pat Bayles, Leadership Development Coach; Taryn Johnston, Employment Specialist; Beth Moser, Compensation Specialist, Mercy Medical Center

Mercy LogoIn response to Mercy Medical Center staff input on discussions around these two questions:  “For what do you want to be recognized?” and “How do you want to be recognized?” Mercy has created a recognition program recognizing advanced skills, responsibility and contributions in professional practice. The REAch (Recognizing Excellence and Achievement) program was designed to recognize and reward both clinical and nonclinical employees who contribute to the Perfect Patient Experience through ongoing professional development.

People crave positive feedback, recognition they put in extra effort and acknowledgement of this high level performance from their leaders and peers. When they receive that feedback, they experience a sense of pride that comes with knowing an achievement has been seen, appreciated and celebrated. Employee recognition is not just a nice thing to do for people.  Employee recognition is a tool that reinforces and rewards the most important outcomes people create for your business. When you recognize people effectively, you reinforce the actions and behaviors you most want to see people repeat.

The Mercy Medical Center REAch program offers staff a means for advancement, offering both public recognition as well as monetary compensation.  Acceptance into REAch is based on the integration, demonstration and documentation of The Mercy Touch, interpersonal skills, clinical excellence, education, community involvement, leadership, valuing diversity and inclusion, as well as performance improvement.

The program is available to both clinical and non-clinical Mercy employees from any department in the organization. Basic qualifiers are: Participants are classified as a .5 FTE or greater; an employee of Mercy Medical Center for six months or more, and meeting or exceeding performance expectations identified in their job descriptions. Continue reading “REAch”

Aligning Leadership Style with Patient-Centered Care

Aligning Leadership Style with Patient-Centered Care
By Tracy Walsh LCSW, Planetree Experience Advisor

leadership-v2Transforming a culture requires more than implementing a few well known practices. The change becomes intrinsic to “the way we do business.”  Organizations that are successful in creating this new culture are led by leaders who understand how to move their employees in the same direction while motivating them to reach beyond the current status quo.

When leaders focus on patient experience or satisfaction scores simply to avoid the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) penalties or reimbursement reductions, they send the wrong message to their teams and fail to build the kind of robust culture that is key to sustainable, long term change at the front lines of care (Biogasano & Kenney, 2012). A patient-centered leadership model provides clear direction that includes that patient voice (and employee voice) in most decisions. This is a new frontier for many. Yet, it is one that can provide the most growth and overall satisfaction and results.

Motivate and Inspire Others

Often times as leaders we guess what will motivate our employees. Buying the department pizza, handing out gift cards, sending thank you cards are in most leaders’ tool kits. Does it work? Sometimes but not always. The key to motivating your staff is truly understanding what motivates them.

There is no magic bullet here! What motivates one person might not motivate the other staff. Many managers have employees complete a preference sheet that includes how they would like to be rewarded and recognized. Such leaders make their followers feel important, bringing about others’ best efforts and fostering a sense of intrinsic motivation (Roberts, 2012). Continue reading “Aligning Leadership Style with Patient-Centered Care”

Griffin Hospital and Planetree Partner to Support Healthcare Improvement Efforts in Kenya

Griffin Hospital and Planetree Partner to Support Healthcare Improvement Efforts in Kenya
By Karin Jay, Planetree Senior Director of International Business Development and Operations

Tigoni Hospital

Staff from Planetree and Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT recently traveled to Kenya to work with staff at Tigoni District Hospital, located in Kiambu County, which is approximately one hour from the capital city of Nairobi.  Tigoni is an 85 bed referral hospital, serving all types of patients, particularly for Maternity, Pediatrics, Specialty Clinics , and HIV/ AIDS.  Griffin and Tigoni Hospital are formally partnered through the World Health Organization’s African Partnership for Patient Safety Program (APPS).

The mission of the APPS program is to “catalyze improvements in patient safety through the use of partnerships and to facilitate the spread of patient safety improvements across and between countries.[i]”  The team from Griffin Hospital was privileged to work with Tigoni Hospital leadership to launch a hand hygiene campaign, utilizing WHO hand hygiene guidelines.  The team also worked on efforts to reduce wait times at the hospital, a real issue in this resource challenged community.

Kiambu County Government
Kiambu County Government

Patient Centered Care (PCC) was another focus of the visit, as a continuation of work on the African Patient Centered Care Initiative (APCCI), which is a formalized effort to set steps to advance PCC in Africa.  The Program was initiated in 2012.  Planetree was pleased to take a lead role towards the development of the APCCI, which not only introduced concepts of patient-centered care and the unique aspects of the Planetree model of patient-centered care delivery, but also provided the opportunity to develop a model that is distinctly suited for Africa. Continue reading “Griffin Hospital and Planetree Partner to Support Healthcare Improvement Efforts in Kenya”

Bringing Core Values to Life at Laser Spine Institute

Bringing Core Values to Life at Laser Spine Institute
By Karen Speicher, Patient Care Consultant, Laser Spine Institute Karen-Speicher_web

At the Laser Spine Institute, we’ve been on a journey of creating a progressive culture of positive, proactive care that is committed to sharing our healthcare values with our patients now and every day moving forward. We believe that bringing these core values to vibrant, thriving life within our organization takes not only time but studious cultivation and we further believe that the discovery phase of this journey was absolutely key in gathering the proper informational seeds that we required to begin.

Make a CHOICE/Be a CARE Champion was planted when we began to actively seek out vital first-hand information from our patients, listen intently to their stories, and then compile and process their crucial feedback, giving ourselves the best opportunity to serve moving forward.

In 2013 our Vice President of Patient Experience, Jason Jones, initiated step one of our current discovery phase by shifting our focus to our staff and then inquiring as to exactly what type of organizational core values they wanted to represent in the direct future. These questions included but were not limited to:

  • What type of staff do you as an individual want to be a part of?
  • What standards, practices and behaviors should our staff strive to achieve each and every day?
  • What are the core values that we most want to present to our patients?

It was in this phase that we began to carefully dig deeper into the valuable experiences of our professional team, gather invaluable insight and information, more thoroughly seek to understand our roles as healthcare providers and thoughtfully prepare to implement our values with confidence and constant care. Continue reading “Bringing Core Values to Life at Laser Spine Institute”

The One Thing You Can Do to Radically Transform Your New Employee Orientation

The One Thing You Can Do to Radically Transform Your New Employee Orientation
By Sara Guastello, Planetree Director of Knowledge Management

A popular ad tagline reminds us that “you never have a second chance to make a first impression.”  And yet, for almost all employees starting a new job in a healthcare setting, their first day impressions are largely based on a review of health insurance benefits, emergency preparedness protocols, infection control practices, and an introduction to privacy rules and regulations.  This is all important information, to be sure.  But knowing you only have one elusive chance to make that first impression, is this the mission critical content that will most effectively prepare your newest employees to be the standard bearers for your organization’s culture, reputation and brand?

What is Mission Critical Content?

Mission critical content is the difference between an orientation program designed to elicit compliance versus one designed to elicit buy-in to the organization’s patient-centered mission and vision—in other words, the difference between a program that merely informs versus one that inspires. Informed orientees will complete the orientation prepared to do the tasks set before them in the role they were hired for.  Inspired orientees, on the other hand, will complete the orientation energized to “be” the patient-centered care change vision articulated to them. Continue reading “The One Thing You Can Do to Radically Transform Your New Employee Orientation”

Leadership Development Program Accelerates Improvements for Clients, Staff and Organizations

Leadership Development Program Accelerates Improvements for Clients, Staff and Organizations
By Anne Snijders, MSc, Planetree Netherlands

Making a Difference Together (MDT) is a personal leadership program developed by Planetree Netherlands in response to the increasing demand for cohesiveness and cooperation within healthcare organizations. The program outlines a methodology that guides team members in the process of advancing from goal setting through implementation and advancement. The curriculum draws on leadership principles that are highly adaptable to a variety of circumstances, with a heavy emphasis on the co-creation of improvement agendas and implementation plans by key stakeholders in the effort.

We notice a stronger awareness among our staff of the common ambition and responsibility we all have in terms of the care we deliver to our clients. MDT gives staff the right focus, leading to new initiatives and good practices throughout the organization. We did indeed become noticeably better.
– Ton Oolthuis, Executive Office Manager / Board Secretary, Fatima Care
Continue reading “Leadership Development Program Accelerates Improvements for Clients, Staff and Organizations”