Field Report from the 2016 Institute for Healthcare Improvement Conference

Right now, I’m on a plane home from this year’s IHI conference, and want to get some things down while they’re fresh. It was a fantastic trip. I’ll be coming back to our hospital with new ideas, new connections, new tools, and a number of insights into what’s happening out there in the broader world of health care, and SHARE’s role in that.

This is my first-ever trip to the annual event. I had already learned some important things from IHI, through SHARE reports from past conferences, and from the IHI’s online resources. But I still found myself surprised as I became more aware of just how much the organization does to change lives in meaningful ways.

If you're going to make successful improvements, you
need to make it as easy as possible, and that involves
 SHARE members defining the work that doesn't need
to be done at all. 
I went there excited to talk with folks from other hospitals about SHARE’s new contract agreement. Members of the Kaiser Permanente Labor Management Partnership, including dozens of front-line union members, come out to the east coast for the event, presenting the latest on their own work with Unit-Based Teams. I was eager to compare notes. Beyond that, however, I learned about many more hospitals using teams, in ways similar to those we're introducing in the new SHARE contract. Unsurprisingly, involving front-line employees in decision-making has been the key factor in the success of those teams.

On top of all of the inspiring and practical learning I brought home with me, the conference was in Orlando, very near in Florida to the home where I grew up. Even though this trip was limited pretty much to inside of the conference hotel, I definitely felt the tug that comes along with any homecoming. So good to see the old palmetto-scrub landscape out the window.

Which, unfortunately, brings me to the toughest keynote of the whole event: a presentation by six employees of Orlando Regional Medical Center, caregivers whose lives were changed by their work in their hospital on June 12, 2016, when the Pulse nightclub, which was two blocks from their hospital, became the site of the worst mass shooting event in American history.
The ORMC team explained for us their triage decisions that night. They described wounds like none that their Level I Trauma Center had before encountered, those from weapons of war. The team depicted for us the patients and families who came into their lives that night, and how they and the whole community have worked to take care of each other and make sense of that senselessness.

Every patient who was brought into their Operating Room that night survives to this day. The presenters attribute that to thoughtful planning and thorough practice, and encouraged all of the hospital employees in the audience to keep at their efforts, to be prepared for the worst.

The conference was sobering, inspiring, and highly educational. I’m looking forward to writing and talking about those meaningful, learning moments I experienced. More on all of that soon.

I expect more materials directly from the conference will be posted online soon, and we'll link to them here. In the meanwhile, if you'd like to listen to one of the speakers firsthand, here's Abraham Verghese -- best-selling author, physician, and one of this year’s keynotes. He described the ritual of the relationship between caregivers and patients, and how caregivers need to have the time to give good attention to those patients who sit right in front of them. At the conference, he expanded on many of the ideas from his popular TED talk, which you can watch through the link below: