Healthcare once again a people business after quality-improvement programme at Cello!

Mariëtte van der Els, sector manager for housing and specialist care at Cello, tells about Accezz quality improvement project.

 

““There is a commonly held perception within the healthcare sector that staff are overtaken by events and the work is never done. This was also how our employees felt,” explains Mariëtte van der Els, sector manager for housing and specialist care at Cello. She adds, “Employees initially choose this career because they can have direct contact with and an immediate impact on people in need, but too much focus on work processes sometimes gets in the way. It is wonderful that Accezz has helped us to take a quality step forward. We now have time again for those extra things, such as having a nice cup of coffee or a friendly stroll with a client.”

 

Client-focussed approach at Cello

Mariëtte van der Els has enjoyed working at Cello for 14 years. “The best thing about my job is making sure that our clients receive the care they deserve. However, this is only feasible when care is arranged and organised both properly and efficiently. With changing legislation and regulations, we face a mounting challenge to ensure that this objective is achieved. In the media, you read that these changes result in less care, but I think it is more a case of ‘different care’. It’s why Cello called in Accezz and is making improvements, not least in terms of quality. While financial gains are a bonus, the emphasis is really on having an even stronger client-focussed approach.”

 

How has Cello been able to do more with the client in the same amount of time?

The first phase of the improvement programme began with Accezz observing the work process, and a number of things soon became clear. “We were already fairly familiar with some issues. For example, we knew that lately we had started to allow staff to take a half-hour coffee break, while the agreement was for 15 minutes. But other findings were more surprising,” says Van der Els. She continues, “One thing we found was that employees sometimes logged in 15 times a day to check their email. As a result of digitisation, certain habits have gradually crept in. It took a fresh pair of eyes from outside to help us see what didn’t work. Staff now spend an hour per day on the computer to write their reports and deal with emails. The rest of the time is spent on the client.”

Change is confrontational

“Staff found the results of the observations quite confrontational at first. For example, one employee was totally convinced that she devoted two hours to a client, whereas observations proved it was only 30 minutes. That’s not nice to hear, of course. There was also a case where one of the residences received new bedding. Within two hours, it was washed and folded in the cupboard, which said a lot about staff priorities. Apparently, over the course of time, strict adherence to certain work practices and carrying out administrative tasks had assumed priority over client needs. Of course, given these types of findings, staff were convinced of the urgent need to change things, not least because they get so much satisfaction from having direct contact with clients. And the will to enact change became increasingly stronger. Part of the change implementation process entailed giving staff space to express themselves and define working arrangements and expectations, which would allow everyone to know how and when to hold each other to account on work-related matters and professional behaviour. This turned out to be an improvement which, in addition to creating more efficient processes, has certainly enhanced cooperation and communication. We find this important because it not only helps to reduce absenteeism but also increases job satisfaction among staff.”

 

Gaining momentum by taking time to reflect on your work

By shifting focus, it has become much clearer where our priorities lie: with clients. Work processes should facilitate client care and can never be an end in themselves. All’s well that ends well? “We have taken a vital first step and now have to get used to new and improved work practices and ensure they become engrained,” Van der Els concludes. “Some forms of human behaviour are simply stubborn. We have therefore decided to start a follow-up improvement programme in cooperation with Accezz, especially since the first stage gave our team so much momentum. After all, it is people and not processes who will ensure that we continue to maximise client welfare and move forward!

Mariëtte van der Els, sector manager for housing and specialist care at Cello

“While financial gains are a bonus, the emphasis is really on having an even stronger client-focussed approach.”