Carol Davis-Smith: The Value of Speaking Up

We are all faced with professional situations that sometimes don’t feel “quite right.” There’s an inner voice in all of us that calls us to action when these situations occur. But some people don’t speak up for fear of retaliation or even a fear of inaction (that is, if we do say something, nothing will be done about it).

At Kaiser Permanente, we are building an ethical culture where staff is not only encouraged to speak up, but they can do so in an environment that makes speaking up safe and easy to do. As healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals, this concept is especially important because the products and technology that we support help to save lives. Along with our clinician colleagues, we must be willing to step up and speak up when things aren’t right.

Too often people think that “speaking up” means being a “whistle blower” when you see people doing bad things. However, at Kaiser Permanente our culture views speaking up in a much broader sense. For those of us in clinical technology at Kaiser Permanente, that translates into speaking up when processes or tools prevent us from getting our jobs done on time and on budget, while always putting patient safety first.

While new technological advancements make our jobs as HTM professionals easier, facilitate scientific breakthroughs, and help make healthcare more affordable, they also can create significant risks that can affect patient safety and desired outcomes. When faced with those risks, or when we see evidence that a product, process, or technology has either failed us or has the potential to cause more harm than good, it’s our professional responsibility to speak up. We must have the courage to bring these concerns to light, address them with our HTM teams, and begin the problem-solving process.

At Kaiser Permanente speaking up is not just a compliance requirement; it’s the right thing to do. It empowers all staff do the right thing and support our mission to provide high-quality, affordable healthcare services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. I encourage everyone to embrace this philosophy and incorporate it into your own organizations.  Doing so just might be the change that will transform the way you deliver quality care and improve the health of the communities you serve. What do you think?

Carol Davis-Smith, CCE, is vice president of clinical technology at Kaiser Permanente.  She is a member of AAMI’s Board of Directors.

4 thoughts on “Carol Davis-Smith: The Value of Speaking Up

  1. Carol,
    Very strong post, and this is an important part of what we do as HTM. I am a BMET in the ORs, and there has been times where I voiced up during a “Time Out” to let them know the site was incorrect or the patient’s name was not correct. It took courage and maturity, but it did stop the procedure for a minute until all in the room were comfortable going forward with the procedure.
    Speaking is what we are all supposed to do. The “see something, say something” motto does pertain to our jobs and we as biomeds and leaders should be willing to step up (to quote you Carol). Even if we are wrong, it still pays off to have your ears and ears open at all time.

    Great post Carol.

    Don Armstrong

  2. Thank you, Carol. I believe that in many companies, the fear of speaking up can be a problem. Too many people figure that nothing will get done, you will be looked upon as an idiot for asking such a stupid question, or worse, you will lose your job because “you are not a team player.” It is tough to implement this “Speaking Up” idea. I hope companies take your lead in this.

  3. In addition to speaking up internally, we might remember in this context mandatory and voluntary MDR reporting. While MDRs are a facility responsibility, it is logical that HTM play a significant role in identifying potentially reportable events, gathering necessary information, filing the MDR and maintaining appropriate MDR files.

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