Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Symphony of Information

Have you ever heard a 9th grade band on their first few days of rehearsal? I lived it – well a much heavier, awkward, glasses wearing, hair out of control, version of myself. The interesting thing about 9th grade band is everyone has had their instruments for a while so most can make a noise that resembles music, but “musicality” is really lacking. What they teach you in that critical year is how to be “Symphonic” which means taking something that is very complex and diverse and pull it together harmoniously. For a percussionist (like myself) that means - just because you can play the loudest doesn’t mean you should and that following the conductor is not an optional activity.

As I was reviewing data this week (reams and reams of data) I began to notice a series of new patterns. Patterns, within themselves, are fascinating but they get interesting when variations occur. So in musical terms if you have 4 measures of quarter notes and then a measure of 8th notes and then a measure of 16th notes the original pattern varied to a pattern that builds intensity. Intensity builds excitement and excitement builds to the climax of the song. As geeky as this may sound the workflow data we review is often like a musical score to me – sometimes just out of sync.

I don’t know about you but when my mind gets stuck on patterns I have a hard time breaking free. My solution has always been to get in my car and turn the radio up to blaring sound to let my mind focus on the patterns in the music. After a few minutes identifying them, and figuring out the layering it is easier to refocus on something new.  This week was especially overwhelming as we discovered patterns outside of alarms that affect our data points AND that the information is readily available.

That’s when it hit me – the problem with the patterns that I was seeing for this particular hospitals report were that they are simply out of sync with the other dimensions of the unit. (Clear as Mud?) Think of it like a musical score – if the woodwinds are playing 3 measures behind the brass who is playing two measures ahead of the percussion it sounds like noise. However, if the conductor is able to see how the patterns line up and is able to pull everyone into sync then it’s an amazing symphony.

Music at it's base is a complex math equation - music at it's core is art and soul.  The key to making beautiful music is to be able to define where the math ends and the soul begins.  The same is true in clinical workflow design the numbers may speak the "truth" but the answer may lie in the "soul" of the work.  That's what we do - we help the hospital define the math so that the clinicians can better create the soul.

I know this is two months in a row of shameless plugs but we are creating a new dashboard that is unlike anything in the market today.  We have welcomed several new team members in to help us mold the product into something that can quickly help a hospital reduce falls, increase patient satisfaction, and increase safety. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Defining What "Matters"

Creating focus can be challenging. I am a firm believer in goals (lots of Zig Ziglar growing up) but sometimes defining those goals is just as hard as achieving them. We may create a visionary goal, but not understand the detail to make it achievable. Many times our inability to identify what “matters” leads to failure, and our lack of understanding of the information produced creates a foggy understanding of success. That’s why it’s critical to be able to break things down into digestible chunks so we can quantify the achievement (or failure) towards our goals.

My six-year old struggles with spelling – if you have read my blog long, you know it’s genetic. In September his third spelling test score was a D. As soon as I saw that paper, I emailed the teacher to request a conference. The teacher explained that they had 20 words and 10 phonics per week, and the importance of good penmanship. (All I heard was 20+10= 30 items per week to learn!)

That information in hand, I devised a plan of action for home study. The plan was simple break down the materials into daily digestible goals. The next week we hit the ground running. We practiced daily, and he got a D+. To me, this indicated failure of the plan, not the child. We reviewed the goals, made an adjustment to the plan, and the following week he got a C+ then a B. Last week, I am pleased to announce, he had his first A, missing only 1 word!

The reason I am reviewing 1st grade spelling tests is because had I waited for the grade card, my baby would have had a D or F on his grade card. (The C he got broke my heart.) Using indicators, in this case the spelling test, to shine light on a potential problem we were able to thwart a hard to recover disaster of a bad grade card.

Hospitals are faced with a number of challenges – one of which is alarm fatigue. Alarm fatigue is a multi-faceted problem that encompasses everything from noise, to acuity mix, staffing and so much more. If you try to tackle the problem by saying "REDUCE ALARM FATIGUE" that solution is foggy at best.  However, if you look at the issue pragmatically then you can identify the multiple layers each with a “spelling test" indicator. Just like the spelling test above the solution lies in breaking down the problem into digestible chunks and refining those goals based on the outcome of the result.

Shamelss Plug - Our Scorecard is a tool – something that can be used like a spelling test – that along with daily goals and observation could solve the problem. The quarterly trend is much like a grade card. If you wait for the grade card to correct course – then you may be too late.
My advice for today – look at everything as a solvable problem. When the problem is too big – break it down as many times as it takes to become understandable and digestible.