“Stop Excessive Measurement.”
Those three little words were music to my ears. The fact that they were spoken by Don Berwick, creator of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and former head of Medicare, made them even more significant.
I was in our state capital today for a regularly occurring conference by Maine Quality Counts. The theme was “Achieving Excellent Patient & Provider Experience”. There was a lot of talk about provider burnout. Dr. Berwick spoke of the central role of the provider-patient relationship and the failures of the current quality movement.
He told a touching vignette about his brother, who is a patient in a rehabilitation facility. All his brother wants right now is to go outside for a few minutes and experience spring, but the rehabilitation hospital is so focused on keeping their falls statistics down that they haven’t been able or willing to work with him to see how he can safely meet his goal.
Berwick more or less said that if you serve your patient well and keep his or her needs in sharp focus, quality will improve, waste will decrease and provider burnout will diminish. How refreshing.
His remarks were originally made at the IHI and published in JAMA a year ago today, during a time when I fell behind in my journal reading.
He describes three eras in medicine.
The first era was the autonomous physician, serving a calling and belonging to a self-regulating profession. Science exposed variation and inconsistencies in the healthcare of the first era, and a second era was born.
That second era, which we now live in, is the era of accountability, measurements and incentives.
The ideals of those two eras are incompatible, but they point the way to a possible third era, which he calls the moral era, where providers are subject to fewer measurements because organizations trust their commitment to their patients and to the principles of quality.
I need to hear things like that now and then.