Three Keys to Engaging the Medical Staff in Your Safety Program

High Reliability

High reliability organizations operate in complex, high-hazard domains without serious accidents or catastrophic failures.  For example, a military aircraft carrier has planes taking off and landing every 48-60 seconds, amid constantly changing conditions, but failures are rare.  This is because they prioritize a culture of process, and of safety.

A Sustainable HRO Culture

Many healthcare organizations attempt to adopt HRO processes, but without addressing  the leadership and cultural issues that support HRO success.  Our Vice President of HRO Consulting, Marty Scott, MD, MBA, recently completed another training program for a system’s senior leadership and medical executive team.  He’s trained over 60,000 leaders and staff on HRO principles. Here’s a quote from the system CMO:

“Everyone left enthused and energetic [about] the potential to transform our organization and the impact this will have on patient care.  Several people remarked this was the best retreat they have attended.”

What’s unique about Dr. Scott’s approach? He covers the basic structure and process components that establish the HRO foundation.  More importantly, though, he talks about the critical physician cultural, leadership, and behavioral skills that build a sustainable HRO Culture.

Marty Scott, M.D., MBA

Engaging the Medical Staff

Nothing will ensure the failure of your safety initiative faster than forgetting to engage your medical staff and gain their buy-in from day one.  Make physicians your champions.  A few specific points of emphasis in his training:

  • Physician Purpose.  Align the entire concept and program with the physician’s purpose.  This is not just another “program” – it gets to the heart of each physician’s goals of keeping patients safe and improving the quality of care.
  • Physician Autonomy.  Reinforce that within the framework of the processes, physician autonomy and expertise are still valued.
  • Physician Coaching and Communication Skills. Train physicians on the coaching and communication skills to make them successful.  These are foundational to HRO success.  The program can train, for instance, on specific communication processes, but if individual physicians can develop more effective communication skills and strategies, it makes it easier for their teams to transform their approach.

When organizations want to improve their approach, the immediate instinct is to look, first, to technology, and to process changes.  They forget that these initiatives will fail without physician buy-in and engagement.  As part of this process, we encourage clients to do the foundational work of improving physician leadership, collaboration and communication skills.

To learn more about Dr. Scott, and our approach to HRO projects, visit our site at