June 14, 2007

13 ideas to improve health care

Idea # 1: Encourage people to do sports more often

How about asking architects and engineers to make a “Vita parcours” and/or “Finnenbahn” in the middle of cities where people work and live. This will make it easy for people to get exercise when they have the time, for example during lunch break, before and/or after work. Optimize the use of parks in order for people to really use them – not just look at them. Here’s some inspiration from Google Images:
* http://images.google.ch/images?hl=en&q=vitaparcours&btnG=Search+Images
* http://images.google.ch/images?hl=en&q=finnenbahn

Here is another example of structural innovation that helps people become more healthy:
At the recent swimming pool improvement at Freibad Letzigraben in Zurich, a wave producing machine was built into the swimming pool. When I was there, I noticed that this "Wellenbad" water experience makes people more excited about swimming – thereby staying more healthy. Source.


Idea # 2: Encourage people to eat food with less fat

How about asking the supermarket, where you buy your groceries, if they could place some fruit and/or flowers at the checkout where you pay for your groceries – and put the unhealthy products at another location in the shop? Thereby, the supermarket helps people stay healthy.


Idea # 3: Stop smoking

Here is an example of a company who’s showing the way: In 2006, Marriott decided to make all their hotels in North America 100% smoke free - thereby taking care of the health of guests as well as employees. To know more, have a look at this posting .


Idea # 4: Involve people through health events

One of the conclusions of this report made by Danish experts is that the better educated you are, the healthier you are. Read, for example, what the authors write on page 29.

Here is a good example of a valuable educational event: On Saturday, April 21st, 2007, the hospital Stadtspital Triemli in Zurich opened its doors to the public. Everyone was invited to visit a newly finished part of the hospital and could, for example, watch a live heart operation and/or get a close look inside the helicopter used for transporting patients to and from the hospital (see picture).



A very large number of visitors at all ages showed up during the day and spent the time not only looking at the new part of the hospital, but indeed also trying out some of the services that the hospital offers to its customers. For example, visitors could take various health tests. In addition, there were good possibilities for the guests to talk to, for example, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, as well as representatives of companies supplying the hospital with various products.

I found out that a hospital is a company where people with different and high competences work. I also found out that advanced technology and medicine are, indeed, continuously helping to cure patients better and faster. For example, I saw technologies that are able to make very precise photographs of internal parts of the human body – photographs that can be watched directly on a computer screen and thereby help doctors and nurses in their work – as well as help patients get a better understanding of their health situation. I even had an inspiring conversation with one of the hospital architects, who told me that more glass instead of concrete had been used for building the hospital – with the effect that more light comes into the rooms.

I learned a lot that Saturday – not least how to better prevent illnesses.


Idea # 5: Involve patients, for example using a blog

A child/man/woman is not an illness (“the man with the broken leg”). Neither is a child, man or a woman a product that is broken and needs to be fixed. A patient is a unique individual, a human being with thoughts and feelings. Also, a patient is in a state of CHANGE - from ill/unhappy to cured/happy.

Why is that important? Because the more the individual patient is involved in the curing process, the higher the probability is that he/she will get through the change quickly, efficiently, and in a positive state of mind.

To general practitioners and/or doctors at hotline centers: How about trying this:
Start a blog on, for example, Blogger. Facilitate, on the blog, exchange of knowledge about a certain illness. For example, ask the patients the following question on the blog: Do you have any suggestions about what you could do to become healthier?

Besides inviting patients as well as their families, who are often the best supporters of the patient, the blog leader could invite relevant experts - for example doctors and nurses, researchers working for various companies, as well as physiotherapists, chiropractors, and/or fitness trainers.


Idea # 6: Use even more information and communication technology to improve communication

Besides using a blog to communicate, try also this:

* Use sms and/or e-mail for short notices, for example notices about appointments that patients have with their local dentist or doctor. Result: The fewer appointments that patients forget showing up to, the less time is wasted for the dentists/doctors, i.e. the more money can be saved.

* Use an open source document sharing system, for example Google Groups, to share documents. That way, patients, doctors, nurses can read wherever they are and whenever they want. Everyone will be better informed, and much time will be saved.


Idea # 7: Shift focus from individual hospitals to clinical-service lines across all hospitals in a region

Advantages of making this move are, for example:

* Cost savings in purchasing.
Professionalizing purchasing of medicine and other supplies will bring down costs. How? When professional purchasers buy medicine and other supplies for several hospitals, they can negotiate better prices with the suppliers – not least because suppliers will save costs when they produce and deliver larger volumes to fewer customers.

* Fewer line managers – and more focus on development.
Rather than having a manager for each of 3 different heart or cancer clinics in a region, one person could lead the operations of all 3 clinics. The other managers, who become superflous due to the centralization, could focus on servicing patients better and/or on introducing new technologies. This move has more advantages: It will reduce bureaucracy in the hospitals, promote self management, and speed up innovation and decision making.

* Better sharing of knowledge around core competences.
Focusing on core competences such as, for example, cancer, lungs, heart diseases etc. make people better at what they do. In a well-established service line, doctors, nurses, and managers can more easily exchange views and share best practices with colleagues elsewhere in the system, for example through blogs and LiveChats.

Suggestions for regions where this initiative could be implemented:
* Scandinavia.
* Austria, the German speaking part of Switzerland, and South Germany.
* Eastern France, Northern Italy, and the French and Italian speaking part of Switzerland.


Idea # 8: Involve a facilitator to lead meetings among specialists and managers

Using a facilitator to lead meetings will increase the value of meetings considerably. The facilitator will make sure that the quality of decisions is increased, and that the time spent on the meeting is minimized. For example, the facilitator will see to that all the people who can contribute with valuable information - no matter who it is - get the opportunity to communicate their knowledge/experience.


Idea # 9: Outsource hospital support functions to private companies

Examples:

* Let one company take care of cleaning the hospital.

* Let another company take care of making, delivering, and selling food as well as beverages at the hospital.


Idea # 10: Let patients in hospitals wear their own clothes

Letting patients wear their own clothes will, for example, have the following positive consequences:

* The patients will feel more like being at home. Therefore, they’ll become healthy more quickly.

* The hospitals will avoid losing clothes that the patients bring home when they leave the hospital – thereby saving costs.


Idea # 11: To relatives and friends of a person who is ill: How about speaking about something else than the illness of your family and/or friend when you talk to him/her?

A person, who is ill, spends a lot of time thinking about his/her illness when he/she is alone, and talking about his/her illness when he/she is with doctors and/or nurses. So why not talk about something else when you call and or go to see your friend/family member? Speak about his/her work, his/her interests/hobbies, and/or some interesting events coming up on the Internet or in the city. This will make your family member and/or friend feel more happy.


Idea # 12: Change the name of the hospital from “hospital” to “health house”

Instead of using the word “hospital” or the even more frightening word ”sick houses”, which is the word used in German and Danish, I’d suggest a more happy/positive name. Why not try out a name signalling cure, care, health, change/transformation etc., for example “Health house”.

Why change the name? Because after all, the people (i.e. employees, patients/customers, and/or their relatives) who walk out of the building ought to be in a better mood / mental state of mind as when they came in. In other words, let the company be a SYMBOL of positive change, as this is at the core of the products that hospitals offer.


Idea # 13: Redesign the hospital to be a dynamic “health house”

* Break down the levels of the hospitals to 2 or 3 levels:
Looking at a traditional hospital from outside, I almost get unhappy before I walk in: Many hospital buildings in more countries are often huge blocks of grey concrete. The many floors of the building almost symbolize the many levels in the almost classic machine bureaucracy of a traditional hospital. How about designing and constructing buildings with fewer floors. Learn, for example, from Århus Universitetshospital, Skejby, Denmark.

* Use positive/happy colours to cover the grey concrete – thereby giving the building a more open and positive look. For new buildings, try using more glass and less concrete – thereby also contributing to creating a more “open and lighter atmosphere”.

* Instead of long, straight corridors, split of the different functions in smaller units, where the rooms with one or 2 beds are placed around the shared facilities. Learn, for example, from St. Olav’s hospital in Trondheim, Norway. Source.

* Construct buildings that keep modifying their shape and continuously produce energy. Inspiration.


What do you do to improve health care?
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