How do hospitals keep us safe? The answers are so numerous, complex and intertwined that it’s hard to know where to start. 

At Novant Health it all down to this: From our nurses to our physicians … anybody that comes in contact with patients, treat them as if it's their own relative, their dad, their mom.”

Here are a few of the key pillars that support the foundation of our commitment to patient safety.

‘I have a concern’

When you ask team members here how such a large system pulled off all As, the answer might surprise you: it starts with continual emphasis on the importance of team members being totally empowered to raise questions and concerns regardless of where they fit in the decision-making hierarchy.

In organizational lingo it’s called “reducing the authority gradient.” In everyday terms, it means that an operating room tech can raise her hand, look a brain surgeon in the eye and say “I have a concern,” without fear of reproach or reprisal. Teams function at their best in an environment based on mutual respect.

Yes, we track handwashing

Long before the pandemic had many of us obsessing over washing our hands, the health care industry was keenly aware of handwashing’s impact on patient safety. Novant Health took it a step further. In 2018, Matthews Medical Center launched a pilot program to electronically track handwashing by individual team members, using badges that collected the data. It was expanded to all Novant Health Hospitals in late 2020.

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From top to bottom

In 2019, we established the Novant Health Institute for Safety & Quality, which expanded our commitment to exceed and lead strict industry standards. This institute focuses on patient outcomes and safety, clinical excellence and infection prevention. But daily details also make the difference:

  • Each hospital has morning safety meetings where key players from each unit talk about the last 24 hours to learn from challenges, then move to the next 24 hours to prepare and problem-solve in advance.
  • The day-to-day culture hardwires safety into every team in every facility. There are constant reviews underway among safety coaches and other managers who review data and personally round on one unit after the other to check for issues. As one manager put it, it’s not “death-by-PowerPoint” corporate presentations, but rather, honest, face-to-face hallway conversations focusing on “what can we do better.”
  • Everyone shoulders this responsibility — not just doctors, nurses and executives. It actually all starts with the front-line housekeeping staff, which plays a critical role in infection prevention. It’s all part of a mindset that says: Safety is not part of the Job. It IS the job.