Sept. 14, 2012 OHA Director's messages on the web
To: All OHA employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

Transformation inside and out

"We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world."
~Heidi Wills

Last week I met with a team of employees at the Office of Private Health Partnerships who exemplify how OHA can successfully support a transformed health care system. It's the kind of work happening in many parts of the agency and it challenges us all to do better.

They started by solving a problem: They wanted to increase the efficiency of their work and improve the customer experience. They picked the top 10 areas for improvement and began tackling the problem by reducing the steps it takes to do their work and eliminating redundancies.

Office of Private Health Partnerships team members, left to right: front, Angie Wingo, Cathy Brosnan-Trepus, Misty Rayas, Sara Denniston, Sandy Hobbs (lean coach), Richard Labarthe; back, Eve Ford, Israel Estrada, Alma Markson, Shari Coon, Terri Padilla, Marcy Tipsword, Linda Parent, Nancy Kuznetsov, Myriam Polanco; not pictured, Michelle Luyet.

They looked at process — and product. They found the forms clients had to fill out for health care coverage simply didn't work. The design caused delays and contributed to errors. So they made the paperwork simpler and the way they process it simpler. The result was a dramatic reduction in delays due to returned forms and a reduced possibility of errors. The time it takes to renew coverage was shortened, which means we decreased the cost of processing those renewals, which saves all of us money.

Better outcomes at a better price.

And at Oregon State Hospital, a team is working toward better client care through a more efficient system. For example, it had been taking an average of 37 days for people — including family members — to be approved to visit loved ones who are patients at the hospital. Imagine waiting more than a month before being allowed to visit a son or daughter or spouse.

As part of their mission to continually improve, staff at OSH zeroed in on the visitor approval process and eliminated unnecessary steps. They found a way to cut the approval time down to two days for most patients. That's an amazing accomplishment that will make a huge difference in the quality of life of their patients and allow family and friends to more easily and more quickly take an active part in their loved ones' recovery.

There are lessons here for all of us. When you put people first — clients first — suddenly things that used to be acceptable become unacceptable, even outrageous. And through that lens comes motivation to drive innovation to make things better. The other important lesson is that these changes were driven from the frontline staff who know better than anyone where to find the landmines that blow up efficiency. Managers empowered and supported the staff in making these changes.

This is how we do it. This is how we transform the health system both inside and out. Our partners in the private sector through coordinated care organizations are making innovative, real changes that improve the lives of the people they serve. We have to do the same.

I urge each and every one of you to be bold. Reject the status quo. If you see barriers in our system that mean care or service is unnecessarily delayed, speak up. If you see bureaucracy that is getting in the way of innovation, speak up. If you have ideas that can help our agency drive toward the vision of better health, better care, lower costs for everyone in Oregon, speak up.

We want to hear from you. Tell your manager, tell your teammates and be an agent for change. I promise you that if you do, I've got your back.

OHA on the web