For decades, healthcare has been a complicated and highly regulated enterprise. Prior to 2013, senior leaders and the boards that supervise them could rely on an industry that was stable and predictable.

This has changed since reimbursements and safety standards were altered. These changes are transforming the way healthcare organizations function in order to stay competitive. These changes have created healthcare leadership boards of directors new challenges for healthcare boards.

In the course of our research, we interviewed opinion makers who highlighted three kinds of behaviors of healthcare boards that they considered to be particularly important:

A solid board must insist on the right information. It must stress the importance of quality and safety goals, and provide trustees with concrete targets. This means using measures endorsed by the National Quality Forum and developing a solid benchmarking strategy which identifies and explains the best performers. The aim is to empower trustees to challenge each hospital to improve its quality and eliminate errors.

The board should also enlist the help of trustees with expertise in the field of quality and safety (e.g. high reliability, Six Sigma) to serve on and chair the board’s quality committee. Ideally, these people could be drawn from other industries, such as aviation or nuclear power. This will ensure the board has a specialist on hand to guide and support the CEO and other employees in setting and achieving the appropriate targets and that the healthcare leadership is doing all it can to improve performance.

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