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Staffing Angst

September 1, 2007
by Charlene Marietti
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Resistance to change continues to be among the leading challenges for care providers planning to improve patient safety records

Although cost continues to be the number one obstacle among most care provider organizations as they face technology planning, purchasing and implementation, staffing issues continue to present some of the biggest challenges—even when the adoption of technology proven to enhance patient safety is at risk.

Recent survey results confirm an essential need for executives and managers with exceptional communication and leadership skills. Technology may offer a myriad of efficient and effective decision support tools, including alerts and evidence-based medical guidelines, but without a workforce trained and committed to adopting and using them, they are worthless. In addition, misuse of these tools introduces new dangers.

Of the 416 Healthcare Informatics Research Panelists participating in an online survey focused on patient safety in May, one in four cited staff-related issues as their organizations' greatest challenge to implementing technologies to improve patient safety. Approximately one in 10 named data entry, clerical mistakes, inattention to detail and other human errors as their major concern, but the largest block (15 percent) across all types and sizes of healthcare organizations cited staff resistance as their number one challenge to implementing patient safetyrelated technologies.

Sadly, resistance from clinical staff members, including physicians and nurses, crosses all types and sizes of institutions almost equally. Resistance seems to be slightly lower in smaller acute care facilities with fewer than 200 beds. This is most likely attributable to the level of technology adoption for these organizations, which trail their larger colleagues in nearly all facets of adoption.

Rather surprisingly, about one in 10 of those surveyed say resistance is coming from the organization's executive leadership. For those organizations in which patient safety projects are not led by a C-suite executive, it is likely that communications with project leaders is less than optimal. This finding crosses all types and sizes of organizations, but is slightly higher among hospitals and healthcare delivery networks in the 200 to 499 bed size.

Reports of staffing-related challenges may be a major concern across all healthcare organizations, but almost all problems are management issues. Achieving improvements in quality and patient safety depends upon people with strong leadership skills. Talented individuals who can communicate the need and value of technology, build a cohesive group which understands the organization's goals, and coordinate and manage people continue to be the critical bridges between potential and results.

"Trends in Patient Safety Technologies" is available from Vendome Group, LLC at research or by calling 212-812-8439.