The cab driver that took me to the Cincinnati airport as I left the HPI Safety Summit last week was from Ethiopia. He had made a point to say “east Africa” when I asked where he was from, as the Ebola virus had greater than average attention in the Queen City due to one of the two nurses who contracted the virus having recently passed through northern Ohio. Even though she never came any closer to Cincinnati than almost 250 miles away, almost every cab driver encountered during our stay mentioned Ebola. This gentleman, in broken but completely intelligible English, shared that he had been in Cincinnati for nine years, and was lamenting the fact that his accent remained far too apparent while his young children now spoke perfect English. Our conversation continued on the beauty of different cultures and their languages, and he told me 80 different languages are spoken in his small country of origin. A quick Google search confirmed this, as well as that anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 different languages are spoken across the African continent.
It dawned on me that the magnitude of such disparate means of communication might not only contribute to a lack of understanding, but with it, the slow-moving development experienced across Africa on the whole. He agreed, which led to an impassioned explanation on how the inability to communicate in a common language leads to a lack of trust among clans, violence and often the need to hire a translator just to travel from the north to the south of Ethiopia. I told him he had inspired an ETY post, as it is becoming increasingly clear that data and fact lose almost every time to fear, ignorance, poor communication and a good old-fashioned wives’ tale spun by a convincing storyteller.
Communication was one of the overriding themes at the Safety Summit as well. HPI is endeavoring to make the language of patient safety universal across healthcare by providing consistent, process-driven training that gives healthcare professionals a vocabulary in high reliability, resilience and a systems approach to care. The number of partnerships HPI has formed with healthcare organizations across the US seeking to join the high reliability journey is growing, and with it, so follows the number of patient lives positively impacted by those employing their teachings at the frontlines of care.
Their teaching excels in parallel with a clients’ ability to communicate the learning, and the session my colleague Erin Agelakopolous and I presented on the topic was standing room only. With newer clients in attendance at this year’s Safety Summit, there were many who wanted to understand how we were communicating the HPI learning across a health system of 30,000. We shared the tool kit designed by MedStar’s Communications team, our 60 Seconds for Safety videos, patient and provider stories, and a Good Catch program recognizing the excellent work at our frontlines while reinforcing the learning culture HROs need to thrive. And we shared that this has indeed been a journey—with our internal communications efforts growing in tandem with a collective comfort level in the new just culture tenets being increasingly embraced.
There were many excellent sessions at HPI’s Safety Summit. Of particular note was the keynote given by nationally recognized patient advocate, DePaul University Professor, Mom, MBA and former McKinsey consultant, Beth Daley Ullem. Beth emphasized the need for healthcare consumers to have access to data and information about the healthcare procedures they are purchasing. “We spend more time evaluating the purchase of mutual funds,” she said, “than heart surgeries.” Having lost a child to preventable medical harm directly related to the culture of medicine, Beth and her approach to this work, provided yet another inspirational reminder that we need a greater sense of urgency around the change we were all in Cincinnati to support.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shared their Good Catch program in a session. Cancer Treatment Center’s of America shared their HRO internal communication campaign and Safety Superheroes. Piedmont Healthcare shared how they are trying to communicate taking transparency to the next level. All expressed how important it is to find ways to communicate HPIs high reliability teachings and culture change across the health system. Being at the Summit was spending time with those already drinking the Kool-Aid of culture change. With all the social media and content development tools available to us, we now need to figure out how to take this excellent work along with the messages of just culture, transparency and open, honest communication in healthcare viral.