AHRA Fall Conference: 3 competencies that help imaging leaders get things done

The following interview was conducted by Michael Walter and was originally published on September 23, 2016 on the Radiology Business website.

The AHRA 2016 Virtual Fall Conference begins Oct. 14, with virtual sessions available to attendees on demand for two full weeks. One session available on demand will be “The 3 Competencies: Building a Successful Imaging Project with Patient Care in Mind,” presented by Cathy Dolan-Schweitzer, MA, the president of Health Well Done in Yonkers, New York.

Dolan-Schweitzer specializes in helping healthcare providers and construction companies complete projects such as building a new imaging room from scratch, and her presentation is designed to help imaging leaders organize and manage their own complex projects.

Dolan-Schweitzer spoke with Radiology Business via telephone, sharing the story behind her system for developing successful patient-centered workspaces. She had already been working in the industry for many years, she said, when she became a patient herself in 2011 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“I was treated in a lot of the rooms that we, as a team, had built,” Dolan-Schweitzer said. “I was sitting there and realized we did a lot of things wrong. There were things that we missed. So it became my passion, because I felt that each and every one of us could be sitting in one of those rooms someday.”

Dolan-Schweitzer then began to focus more on the patient’s experience, and she kept noticing how little the staff at some healthcare facilities seemed to care about being safe, comfortable, and convenient for patients.

Researching the development of a new EP lab, for instance, she went on several site visits and was unimpressed by each and every one. She’d see small, cramped spaces, with cables running across the floor that couldn’t possibly stay clean.

“I’d say, ‘Look, guys, you spent $3 million dollars. Why didn’t you get a team of people and really lobby to get a little more space and take the time to keep cables off the floor? It’s not safe for the people working or for the patient.’” Dolan-Schweitzer said.

The existing project delivery systems just weren’t getting the job, she thought. It was time for a new, easier system. And her Health Well Done methodology was born.

What are the 3 competencies?

Dolan-Schweitzer’s system can be broken down into what she calls the three competencies: Healthy Patient, Healthy Team and Healthy Project.

Everything, she says, must start with thinking about the patients. And this means more than just knowing a name and the reason for their visit to your facility.

“A lot of people do not pay attention to who their patients are don’t understand their patients,” she said. “So that’s the first thing we spend a lot of time talking about. How does the patient come into the space? Do they have someone who comes with them? Does that person wait in the waiting room?”

This detailed approach, Dolan-Schweitzer explained, is crucial to providing patient-centered care. And the next competency involves truly getting to know your team and asking for everyone’s perspective, from nurses and anesthesiologists to IT specialists and the person working behind the front desk.

“What people have to say is very important, especially if you want to be innovative,” she said. “You want those people to come into your meetings and be involved with the team so they can share their wisdom and experience.”

Respecting each member of the team can pay huge dividends down the road, Dolan-Schweitzer explained, and it makes everyone feel a real sense of pride. She calls this a “return on involvement.”

“If you have a full team and that team is involved from start to finish, they’re going to feel much more prepared to care for the patient and they’ll feel engaged and empowered, because they gave their input,” she said.

So managers spend time learning about their patients and get the entire team on board—then what? The third and final competency, Healthy Project, is where everything comes together.

“You need a backbone,” Dolan-Schweitzer said. “You need to put that information into some sort of structure. The Healthy Project takes all the little pieces and puts them into a structure, so you can take the project from start to finish and keep everyone on the same page.”

Consistent mistakes

Dolan-Schweitzer said she’s seen a lot of failed projects over the years, and some mistakes get repeated again and again.

For example, a leader must define the scope of their project. She recommends people spend the first six weeks of their project defining the scope and documenting everything. Without that close attention to detail, team members may lose confidence in the process, causing everything you have worked hard to develop to potentially fall apart.

Also, she has seen many organizations that have poor communication when it comes down to making decisions and spending money.

“You can’t do anything without money,” Dolan-Schweitzer said. “If the money stops, the project stops.”