The fundamental challenge in any high-risk industry is balancing “productivity” versus “safety.” The term “protection” is frequently used within the scientific literature to express the role of safety departments within an organization. Described this way, it might sound as if the safety experts are framing the debate to suggest “the evil factory bosses are continually speeding up the assembly line, while the righteous safety-folks are yelling ‘slow down!’” This essential misunderstanding must be cleared up.
In healthcare, protection would appear to refer to “protecting the patient,” yet that is clearly not the case. By optimizing safety, what we are ultimately protecting is the financial health of our healthcare system. Productivity and protection are not at odds with one another: they are both vital to the success of any healthcare organization.
As an industry, healthcare spends more on bad outcomes than good outcomes. By one estimate, nearly 30% of our $2.5 trillion annual healthcare budget is spent without improving health of the nation, via unnecessary, inappropriate, and administrative costs. But the days of passing these costs on to the “consumer” are rapidly coming to an end. And the healthcare organizations which rapidly figure out how to simultaneously improve productivity and safety will be the ones to thrive and prosper.