33. Live the Service, Improve the Service

How do you know when service is broke?  Do you listen to patients?  To staff?  Is it a gut feeling?

There’s only one way to know for sure: experience it.

The Chicago Sun-Times brings news of a county sheriff willing to do just that (via Freakonomics Blog):

Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran Jr. sentenced himself today to a week in his own jail, saying he believes spending time behind bars will make him a better cop and a better person.

“I believe that I can be a better sheriff by having a better understanding of jail operations from the perspective of an inmate in the Lake County Jail,” Curran said before being locked up. “I believe that I will receive significant introspection from staying in the jail with inmates for a week.”

Jail.  JAIL!  If a sheriff is willing to experience one week in a jail, surely a hospital executive would be willing to experience a night in the hospital.

His plan:

Curran plans to live in a cell, eat jail food, mingle and talk with other inmates in common areas, while also attending numerous programs offered in the facility, including substance abuse counseling, parenting and educational classes, along with religious services.

That immersion, he said, should give him more insight into everything from safety issues to what programs may be needed help inmates straighten out their lives and avoid future crimes.

“My experience in the jail will help me to better understand our existing programming, as well as any possible unmet needs that exist in our programming,” said Curran, a 45-year-old former prosecutor elected sheriff in 2006.

An inpatient stay is the new hospital report card.

Do it all: arrive through the ED, register, be wheeled to a room on a gurney, wear the robe, talk to doctors and nurses, be transported to radiology (and everywhere else), wait for food, try to eat that food, use the restroom, take a bath, try to sleep next to a roommate separated only by a curtain, use the telephone, use a cell phone, enjoy the television, tug the pull cord, etc…all just like a patient in the hospital (surgery not required, though it medically necessary, all the better).

The insight: valuable.

Granted the service that a hospital executive receives will be biased.  But that’s not the reason to do this, not for aspects of service that can be easily observed.  No, this time is meant for those aspects of service that can only be experienced.

Would you be willing to spend time as an inpatient in your hospital?  Be careful how you answer. If the answer is anything close to “no,” it’s time to get moving and start improving.

Principle #33: At our own system all senior leaders will be required to spend time in the hospital: live the service, improve the service.  If someone is unwilling to comply with such a requirement, well, that says about all a patient needs to know about our hospital.

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