Is Your Physician Group a High-Reliability Organization?

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , October 26, 2011

What does a physician practice have to gain by being an HRO? There’s not a plaque or a framed certificate that identifies an HRO. Gans says that for a medical group, operating as a highly reliable organization means it’s ready to deal with the unexpected. Staff roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, decision-making is deferred to the most knowledgeable person on the team regardless of their position in the hierarchy, and a high degree of accountability develops among the office and professional staff. “It becomes everyone’s job to look at the big picture and identify potential problem areas in a physician practice. Everyone is involved in identifying small problems that need to be resolved before they become worst-case scenarios,” Gans says.

One common stumbling block for physician groups developing an HRO—and for many organizations—is accepting the inevitability of human error. “We don’t always like to hear about mistakes, but successful HROs are preoccupied with failure. They want to know what went wrong and what steps can be taken to avoid that situation in the future,” Gans says.

Physician practices building toward HRO status can encourage error reporting and even develop reward programs around reporting errors as a way to enhance reliability.

The bottom line for physician group HROs is that they often see improved financial results, Gans says. “They are able to work faster, smarter, and see more patients”—with the confidence that when the crisis comes, they will be ready.

Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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