Vice president of women’s services, RWJBarnabas Health
Spernal leads the RWJBarnabas Health OB Collaborative, which brings together clinical leaders from across the health system, including the obstetrics and emergency departments. The goal is to standardize and share best practices and reduce preventable morbidity, mortality and racial disparities in maternity care. Through the collaborative, RWJBarnabas hospitals cut low-risk cesarean deliveries by more than 10% over the past two years. Four hospitals hit HHS' Healthy People 2020 goal of 23.9% for low-risk C-section rates. Spernal also developed an alert in the electronic health record that flags pregnant and postpartum women who come into the ED, giving clinicians real-time information to act on.
How do you identify opportunities for innovation?
As we begin to develop an innovation, we speak with those that would be affected the most, which typically includes our patients and our clinicians. This 360-degree view enables us to make necessary and critical adjustments and also ensures that the innovation will work well and can be operationalized. Aligning the needs of everyone involved helps to ensure success and ultimately improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.
What advice do you have for people who know how to get an idea in front of managers but may be afraid of failing?
The fear of failure is the biggest barrier holding many people back from success. It requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability to present an idea to a superior and to risk having that idea rejected. Don’t be afraid to fail, because sometimes the most important lessons are learned in failure. It’s important to present ideas to those who will be most affected by them before bringing them up to your superiors. Once you have that collective buy-in, it won’t be as daunting to present the idea to your superiors, because it will have been fleshed out and supported by your colleagues and, most importantly, your patients.
How do you stay focused on innovation during a crisis?
The silver lining of this pandemic has been the fertile ground it has laid for innovation. The most important thing healthcare executives can do right now is to create a safe space for front-line staff to share their ideas and experiences with each other and with leadership. The people on the ground, treating patients every day, will naturally have the soundest ideas on efficient and effective patient care. These ideas from the front lines could eventually turn into best practices and even cost savings for the system, but staff members first must feel comfortable in sharing what works. Therefore, it’s crucial for front-line workers to feel safe, supported and empowered in sharing their ideas.