Much of the nation's economic boom of the 1990s was directly attributable to productivity gains. Employers were able to reap more output from workers who were highly trained, better focused and equipped with enhanced information technology.
Sadly, the hospital and health system sector failed to match the productivity gains of other industries. Equally alarming, healthcare managers have ignored or neglected cost measurements.
The dismal operating results that many providers posted in recent years fueled a sense of urgency, even panic; measuring output was a sidecar issue. But improved financial conditions make the time right to improve productivity.
Benchmarking against peers is dandy, but comparisons with direct competitors is a quicker way to gauge your productivity standing. Yet an organization can run such comparisons only if managers agree on how to collect, allocate and validate data. And that won't happen unless the chief executive officer sends a message that departmental denial, turf protection and other barriers will not be tolerated.
After all, you can't improve what you can't measure.
Pushing through. They don't call him Slick Willy for nothing.
Rather than wait for the early 2001 release of a congressionally funded National Academy of Sciences study on ergonomics, President Clinton is pushing ahead with new regulations that will cost healthcare providers more than $1 billion in the first year.
The new Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, in their 600-page glory, are designed to make workplaces ergonomically sound. OSHA wants employers to assess the risks of musculoskeletal injury associated with each job, remedy injury-causing problems and offer treatment and paid time off to workers recovering from musculoskeletal injuries.
Sounds fair enough. But critics say the OSHA rules are too broad and scientifically unsound, thus the importance of the upcoming National Academy of Sciences study.
We think Clinton's haste is a way to pay back the political support of labor, build a legacy beyond Monica Lewinsky and thwart next year's Republican Congress (and possible president).
Providers should overlook the politics and seriously develop programs to reduce on-the-job injuries. A safe workplace also means a productive one.