As the world’s healthcare systems were being overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army’s Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic (DDHC) – Schofield Barracks proved that through teamwork, effective communication, and a dedicated focus, you can do more than just survive during the most challenging of times. In fact, in 2020, the Hawaii-based Military Treatment Facility not only maintained high quality care, it was able to make improvements across almost all areas of its operations.
According to Jacqueline McPherson, the Clinical Nurse Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Brain Injury Clinic, DDHC reported increases in each of its active performance improvement projects, which includes: leadership, standard processes, and continuing nursing education.
McPherson, who has 30 years of experience working for both civilian and Army health care systems, explains that “process and performance improvements are necessary for guaranteeing exceptional health care at every level… that is why at DDHC, we are always working toward our goal – to deliver high-quality patient care and even better patient outcomes.”
What DDHC has been able to achieve since 2019, seems to validate this approach. In 2019, DDHC saw a 71% increase in improvement projects that were considered “active.” This means that over two thirds of their projects were demonstrating progress towards their goal.
In 2020, there was an astounding 180% increase in the number of projects that reached completion. Additionally, DDHC was able to achieve several significant process improvement benchmarks. The most impactful were the assignment of a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt – the first since about 2017; the implementation of a standardized project improvement process; and the establishment of a nursing continuing education program – none of which existed for several years or at all.
As McPherson and the DDHC team look to 2021, they are hopeful that they can achieve even better results.
The Secret to DDHC’s Success
So, how did the DDHC make such strides last year? McPherson says it’s all about teamwork and communication. She credits the clinic staff, and refers to them as “subject matter experts” who can identify issues as they arise and effectively address them. When it comes to improving what they are doing, the clinicians know that there is an open line of communication to the organization’s improvement project leads (Jacqueline McPherson, Jason Martin, and Rita Ebert).
McPherson, Martin, and Ebert have worked tirelessly to develop a high level of trust and esprit de corps with the clinic teams. They have implemented a well-rounded communications system and meet routinely with their staff. Whether it is through bi-weekly team coaching sessions, monthly project improvement meetings, or just routine emails and phone calls, the DDHC team works together to share information and to do their best to serve their patients.
“This program is only as strong as the workers who participate in it,” said Col. Thurman Saunders, Deputy Commander for Nursing (DCN) at DDHC. “Our clinicians understand that they are not just helping the organization, but also themselves by taking advantage of nursing continuing education credits, coaching and mentoring, getting their Lean Six Sigma and Lean Leader certifications, and gaining valuable marketable experience that they will always have. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
McPherson also credits engaged leaders who provide top-down support and guidance.
“Our leaders don’t just support our improvement mission, they are actively engaged in holding all of us accountable and giving us the tools we need to do better and be better,” she said. “Striving to become a High Reliability Organization (HRO) is a top priority for our commander, Col. [Anthony] King. Process improvement is a big tool in our toolbox to get there.”
With the first few months of 2021 under its belt, DDHC is hard at work on this year’s improvement projects. The team is focused on improving their efficiency and increasing readiness – both important goals for the DDHC and the Army as a whole.
Specifically, DDHC is focused on:
· Decreasing wait times in the Urgent Care Clinic
· Streamlining the triage reporting process
· Decreasing the percentage of walk-in patients without lab orders
· Increasing N95 respirator compliance for civilian employees
“Teamwork, good communication, and a dedicated focus on improving mission execution are hallmarks at DDHC,” said Col. Anthony King, Commander, DDHC. “The success at DDHC serves as a good reminder that continuous improvement, requires that you can’t quit on the process. If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result. There’s also no mission more important than our People. With that in mind, we look for process improvement projects that provide quality care to our beneficiaries.”