“We found that our sustainers celebrated their accomplishments, but not for long. Consistent top performers are never satisfied. They transform and sustain a culture that is driven by leadership and holds the entire organization accountable for achieving priorities with the same level of intensity year after year to continuously improve.” —Gena Futral, Vizient Executive Principal, Reliability and Management Systems

As consumers, when we want to purchase a product or service, we are always looking for brands and businesses that consistently deliver high quality and a positive customer experience. We talk with our friends and family members to get their opinions and check out online ratings to help further inform our decisions. We do the same thing when choosing a health care provider. Patients want quality outcomes and a positive experience when they need care. For health care organizations, it is well documented that sustaining quality is the measured hallmark for top performance.

Since the inception of its annual Quality and Accountability Ratings in 2005, Vizient has regularly researched drivers of quality through a series of studies evaluating the top-performing health care organizations to identify common attributes.

“While several of the studies have focused on the impact of various leadership roles related to quality, they have always been member driven,” said Julie Cerese, Vizient group senior vice president, performance management & national networks. “We refer to the organizations who are consistently ranked as top performers in our ranking as “sustainers.” Members want to really understand, at a granular level, the characteristics that led them to be able to sustain their success.”

 

Watch: Importance of People, Julie Cerese, PhD, RN, MSN, Vizient Group Senior Vice President, Networks and Performance Management

Characteristics of Top-Performing Organizations

The most recent study compared attributes from top performers who sustained top performance consistently over the last 10 years to health systems that have been top performers but have not been top performers in the last two years . The analysis showed that the leadership behaviors identified in 2005 remain distinguishing factors today. Additionally, the research uncovered five key organizational characteristics that support an organization’s ability to sustain top performance and quality.

“Strong leadership is the catalyst to champion quality and weather industry challenges,” said David Levine, Vizient group senior vice president, advanced analytics & product management. The No. 1 differentiator in top performers is organizational consistency across all key characteristics.”

Levine noted, leaders from the sustainer organizations are keenly aware of what is required to maintain top performance. “The single most important reason to achieve sustainable quality and safety is focused on the patient experience,” he said. “Each of the sustainers has a way their organization executes on the key findings, yet underlying the actual systems, processes and behaviors is a palpable intensity and focus to deliver the very best for every patient, every day.”

“Strong leadership is the catalyst to champion quality and weather industry challenges,” said David Levine, Vizient group senior vice president, advanced analytics & product management. The No. 1 differentiator in top performers is organizational consistency across all key characteristics.”

Levine noted, leaders from the sustainer organizations are keenly aware of what is required to maintain top performance. “The single most important reason to achieve sustainable quality and safety is focused on the patient experience,” he said. “Each of the sustainers has a way their organization executes on the key findings, yet underlying the actual systems, processes and behaviors is a palpable intensity and focus to deliver the very best for every patient, every day.”

 

Watch: Patient Care is the Bottom Line, David Levine, MD, FACEP, Vizient Group Senior Vice President, Advanced Analytics and Data Science

Leaders also understand people are the drivers of their organization’s culture.

“It’s consistency and alignment of purpose, from the highest level of staff across the organization to the people who clean patient rooms and the patient greeters at the door, in all these categories,” Cerese added. “Leaders, physicians, nurses and staff working together as true partners with mutual respect is critical to patient care and sustaining quality.”

What’s Ahead

The challenges in today’s healthcare environment are more pronounced and complex than at any time in modern history. For the last two years, health care leaders have been working to remain focused on organizational culture while managing sharp fluctuations in patient demand due to the pandemic, disruptions in the supply chain, staff burnout and shortages, along with the need to maintain quality, safety and an overall positive patient experience. What they have accomplished during this time is nothing short of astounding.

Sustainer organizations overcome challenges and maintain top performance through their willingness to be continuous learners.

“We found that our sustainers celebrated their accomplishments, but not for long,” said Gena Futral, Vizient executive principal, reliability and management systems. “Consistent top performers are never satisfied. They transform and sustain a culture that is driven by leadership and holds the entire organization accountable for achieving priorities with the same level of intensity year after year to continuously improve.”

Moving forward, top member performer organizations and those who are working to achieve this level of performance must always stand ready to deliver the patient experience promise by:  

  • Maintaining a mindful and consistent culture through commitment, action and engagement at all levels: executive, middle management and workforce.
  • Effectively managing the rapid pace of organizational growth across a large enterprise
  • Recruiting and retaining the best people with growing challenges over the past two years. Turnover at all levels disrupts intention and intensity of their performance excellence focus.

Like all great consumer brands, sustaining the highest level of quality comes with dedication and commitment to consistently meeting customer expectations. Healthcare leaders also need to have a high level of focus and a deep understanding of what are the drivers of one’s success; maintaining those things that work well and constant evaluation and assessment for opportunities to improve patient care.

To learn more about our research on top-performing organizations, download our white paper, Top Performing Health Care Organizations: What Drives Their Success.

Published: May 10, 2022