It’s about robots, yet it’s not robots

By Bernie Monegain
02:53 PM

List stories are popular fare for Healthcare IT News readers. There's nothing like the "7 best jobs in healthcare IT" or "10 ways to work with your vendor" articles to gain the reader's attention in print or online. The most read and "clicked" articles of that genre are the ones that feature the best hospitals  -  best in IT, best in safety, best in care. 

As individuals and organizations we strive to do our best, to be the best  -  and "best-of" lists attract readers who want to see how they compare.

For our cover story this month, we selected one among the many hospitals across the country that often land on the "most this" or "best that" lists, and we dug deeper. We went behind the list, so to speak. What does it mean to be the best? What does it look like? What does it take to pursue excellence? 

We wanted to give you a glimpse of what "best" looks like at one hospital. Healthcare IT News Associate Editor Erin McCann traveled to Boston Children's Hospital to part the curtain on what it means for this hospital to be at the top of its game. 

It's robots  -  even take-home robots. Yet, it's not robots. It's about awards. No, probably not. Though the awards seem to come easily, there is no award chase at Boston Children's. No paper chase either. The hospital is paperless. Not even a sticky note in sight. It could be about technology. But, we all agree, that technology alone does not make an excellent hospital.

It's an outlook, a mindset. It's discipline. It's a willingness to make tough decisions, to look at how things have always been done and consider a new way, to take risks, to work hard and to pull together. It's leadership, grace, imagination and courage  -  the intangibles more than the technology.

Boston Children's always had a goal, but it was not to achieve Stage 7 on the HIMSS Analytics scale, or to make the Most Wired Hospitals list, or any other recognition that signaled the hospital had arrived. The goal was to make sure patients were safe while entrusted to Boston Children's, and to make sure they received the best care possible.

"Way back when we started on this journey 10 years long, it was primarily focused on improving patient safety and optimizing care processes, making things more efficient where possible," CIO Daniel Nigrin told McCann. "I think just as part of that process, the way that we've achieved going after that stuff has resulted in us also garnering some awards along the way."

So with the eye on the goal  -  continually improving care  -  Boston Children's is one example of what one hospital can do. Some might say that Boston Children's is among the elite and well heeled. The affluent medical centers have more money, but that by itself does not guarantee excellence. 

"What is troubling is not just being average but settling for it," Atul Gawande writes in "Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance." Gawande is a surgeon at a neighboring hospital, Brigham and Women's, also listed among the best.

"Everyone knows that average-ness is, for most of us, our fate,' Gawande continues. "And in certain matters  -  looks, money, tennis  -  we would do well to accept this. But in your surgeon, your child's pediatrician, your police department, your local high school? When the stakes are our lives and the lives of our children, we want no one to settle for average."

Boston Children's has embraced the excellence mantra with aplomb, brilliance and commitment.

As the hospital's slogan goes  -  "until every child is well." 

"At Boston Children's Hospital, this is the promise that drives every doctor and nurse at the bedside, every researcher at the lab bench; every staff member on the other side of the desk and the other end of the phone."

It's about purpose  -  another one of those intangibles.