Finding Unexpected Answers Beyond Borders
I believe it was the entrepreneur and investor Brent Beshore who coined the term “innovation vacation” as a way to describe intentional time spent away from the daily grind. Like myself, many leaders recognize the importance of removing ourselves from the familiar as a means of gaining fresh insights into stale problems. Often, it is through seemingly unrelated experiences that we find creative solutions to problems that may have us stumped in our professional lives. Sometimes, we are so close to the problem that we can’t seem to step back to see the solution right in front of us.
I routinely use the restaurant industry as a parallel to how patient flow works in the Emergency Department. When our team discusses flow and operations using terms like hostess, waiter, and chef in lieu of triage nurse, primary nurse, and provider, the conversation changes—the defensive guard comes down, and we make palpable progress before bringing it back to the all-too-familiar Emergency Department environment. With this in mind, I recently had the privilege to spend several weeks sailing around Antarctica. I was charged with overseeing the health of roughly 110 passengers on the journey.
As I left my busy hospital where we struggled with surge capacity, I was given an opportunity to temporarily escape haunting metrics such as door-to-doctor times and re-admissions. As I got ready to board the ship, I believed wholeheartedly that I would be able to create the perfect system from scratch—and avoid all the problems that many of us face regarding emergency care. After all, I was in complete control of the entire operation from pharmacy to direct care to follow-up. What could possibly go wrong?
Nicholas Steinour, MD is a graduate of Baylor University and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He received specialty training at Duke University Medical Center in emergency medicine and served as chief resident.
Steinour has worked as the medical director at multiple emergency departments in central Texas, with patient volume ranging from 13,000 to 75,000 visits annually. He was a founding board member for Care4Texans ACO, a locally owned, physician-led, clinically integrated network to empower the provider community to collaboratively improve the way care is delivered locally. He is also a board member for the Texas College of Emergency Physicians. And with the trip to Antarctica, he has traveled to all seven continents.