At Cullman Regional Medical Center, a 145-bed hospital with more than 150 doctors and nearly 1,000 nurses, technicians and other support staff, technology has become a vital part of their patient care culture. Cullman’s leadership is committed to collaboration with both the IT department and the staff to increase patient engagement, while reducing cost and improving outcomes.
Recognizing the shift the healthcare industry was taking toward technology, Cullman leaders made a conscious decision to dedicate both time and resources to embed technology skills, cooperation, and capacity within their organization. The system has invested to put computers at every bedside, and to bring in software solutions that support their clinical and information workflow.
Cullman’s technology achievements haven’t happened by accident, but rather by following a set of core principles that drive success:
Principle 1: Source Ideas from the Frontlines.
Cullman’s culture embraces change, so frontline staff members are as apt as leadership to identify opportunities and suggest solutions. “Our first value is doing the right thing for the right reason,” said Cheryl Bailey, CNO/Vice President Patient Care Services. “We hire for attitude. I can train for skills, but I can’t train for attitude.” Cheryl and other leaders harness the ideas and energy of frontline staff to create a pipeline of projects that IT can support to make work safer and produce better outcomes for patients.
Principle 2: Treat IT as a True Partner.
Cullman includes IT staff members in meetings covering everything from strategic organizational goals to Lean Six Sigma training. “Our first Lean Six-Sigma class,” Cheryl reported, “One of the people asked, ‘could we cut down the phone calls?’ Within 90-days IT created a tool that cut 200 calls down to 20.” By keeping IT connected to top strategic priorities, Cullman ensures that IT staff members understand the end goal and not just immediate specs.
Principle 3: Co-Develop Solutions with Vendors.
Cullman’s IT staff can do a lot on its own, but it doesn’t make sense to “own” everything. For example, Cullman partnered with Vocera Communications and designed the discharge recording platform, Good-to-Go, which went on to win them the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Transition to Better Care Program Award. Through this partnership, Cullman was able to tailor the solution to benefit both the staff needs and patients, resulting in a 15% decrease in readmissions, and HCAHPS discharge domains improvements of 62% and 63% respectively.
Principle 4: Encourage Innovation. “
We like the challenge of trying to figure something out – and without a whole lot of financial resources,” said Cheryl. Embracing innovation means allowing – even encouraging – failure. “We can’t fail at the frontline – that’s a bad patient outcome,” Cheryl explained. “But for an IT project, failure should be encouraged. That means we’re taking chances. We view that as roadblocks and we look to overcome them” Director of IT Nancy Sebastian went on to explain that encouraging innovation also means different things to IT staff. IT doesn’t work in 12 hour shifts, and they don’t respond to traditional incentives, preferring training and the opportunity to create and market new solutions. “IT is incredibly exciting,” said Nancy. “It changes every day. We like that – there’s so much we can do.”
Principle 5: Measure Results.
The key to Cullman’s success is a constant focus on what they expect to get out of a technology. They take their time determining and tracking the right metrics to understand whether or not solutions are meeting their expectations. When solutions fall short, they look to understand why and course correct. Nancy explained, “I tell the group we’re human we make mistakes – please let us know so we can fix it. It’s a process.”