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COVID-19’s high reliability legacy

After surviving a global pandemic, will healthcare organizations double down on high reliability principles, or will they decide the costs of becoming a high reliability organization (HRO) exceed the benefits?

Vikki Choate, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, a healthcare consultant and international speaker with Huron Consulting Group, and Ken Rohde, senior consultant for patient safety and process improvement at The Greeley Company, are cautiously optimistic that the pandemic will encourage hospitals and clinics to invest more into building reliable systems and quality improvement projects before the next disaster strikes.

“I think that COVID should really spur us to move forward philosophically [towards high reliability],” Rohde says, “starting at top leadership and trickling down to the front lines of care. You know when people put [high reliability practices] into play at the front line they’re using different tools [than leadership]. But this has to convince boards, senior leadership, stakeholders about the importance of maintaining an HRO.”

The pandemic has acted like a shake test for healthcare organizations, picking them up and shaking them to see what bits fall off or come undone. Many found out at the worst time that their allegedly solid practices and policies couldn’t handle the additional strain the pandemic wrought. Choate says COVID-19 has made providers and healthcare leaders realize their organizations aren’t as robust as they’d once believed.

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