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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Let's Talk About Problems

Published May 30, 2014 6:41 PM by Lisa Mueller

In my role as rehab supervisor, I frequently prepare small presentations to share with others. Sometimes the leaders of my healthcare organization request updates or other times our sales team needs more information on physical rehabilitation to be able to better sell our service to clients.

There are situations when I will spend time working with IT, for example, to better understand their type of work and processes, so they can in turn help the rehab department in terms of software or other systems support. In each of these situations, my tendency is typically to focus on the victories of rehab. Yes! We can do that! We accomplished this! We exceeded our goals! I get so excited about the progress our department makes and the end result of the patient experience that my focus doesn't instinctively shift to anything else.

I recently heard a speaker give a contrast between GM and Toyota. He explained that the focuses of each company's executive reports took a drastically different approach -- GM on their accomplishments and Toyota on all of the problems with the hybrid model. The following year, GM filed for bankruptcy while Toyota watched the sales of their Hybrid model continue to grow. The lesson? We need to talk about problems. Problem-solving in groups and collaborating on solutions is the best way to drive progress, better outcomes and an improved customer experience.

I think it's important to point out that identifying problems and giving attention to their causes is different than placing blame. Likewise, it's equally important to appropriately recognize the good work done by a person or team.

Physical therapists are built to solve problems. What's the cause of your pain? Why is your strength impaired? How can we improve your gait pattern? We dig deep into the anatomy and physiology of our patients to find the root cause and help implement a solution with an effective plan of care. Many times, we probably don't even realize how ingrained problem-solving is in our profession because it's such a critical and subconscious part of our work. But do we carry the same attention to solving problems for our department, our organization, or our profession of physical therapy?

How far do you carry problem-solving into your world? Is problem-focus part of the culture of your department? Do you believe an emphasis on identifying problems and teamwork to find solutions, instead of accomplishments and accolades, is effective in the healthcare world?

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