Sunday, May 06, 2012

"You can unleash this horsepower!"

Among the great hospital leaders in America, Jeffrey Thompson, CEO of the Gundersen Lutheran Health System in Wisconsin, stands out for going beyond achieving marvelous results in patient quality and safety.  Jeff's commitment that his system will not accept mediocrity shows up in other arenas as well.  He and his board have adopted a corporate strategic plan that sets a goal of being "the best regionally and nationally on environmental stewardship and accountability."

This is outlined in a recent keynote speech he gave at CleanMed 2012 in Denver.  Jeff pointed that hospitals have a large impact on the environment and on public health because of their use of electricity.  Noting that his system alone produces 500,000 pounds annually of airborne particulates tied to its electricity consumption, he concluded that reducing that impact can and should be tied into the culture of a health care institution.  He asserted, "We are going to be responsible to members of the community.  We are going to be transparent, and we are going to act to fix things."

Inaction on this front, in the view of the people at Gundersen Lutheran, is not acceptable. "It is not enough to be good people.  What you tolerate, you support.  We have to lead this.  We can't leave it to someone else."

His speech then summarizes the many steps taken by his system to reduce energy use and to employ renewable resources.  Beyond the social mission, he makes a clear business case for this, in terms of return on investment, generating savings and cash well beyond that of virtually all other uses of funds.

Jeff also points out that this is a mission that will resonate with the staff in hospitals.  "There is no more powerful asset that you have than an engaged, fired-up staff."  The staff feel pride in being environmentally sound, for innovating ahead of the norm, and for not settling for mediocrity.  "You can unleash the horsepower!" he notes with enthusiasm.

My readers will notice a parallel with assertions I have made on this blog about the need to improve the quality and safety of hospitals, about the power of front-line driven process improvement, and about the essential nature of transparency in how an organization holds itself accountable to its own standards of excellence.  What you may not know is that, well before diving into health care, my career was in the energy and environment field, and so I can testify that the actions brought about by Jeff's leadership and his team are exemplary.  Indeed, again, "this little place out on the prairie" sets a standard for the nation.

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