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Eileen Malone

Senior Partner,
Mercury Healthcare Consulting

Alexandria, United States

Can multidisciplinary industry leaders and competitors collaborate and harness their expertise to eliminate healthcare-associated infections and other hospital-acquired conditions?

Competing as Collaborators Takes Courage

Collaboration for the greater good may be the ideal, but competition, a time-proven human propensity, will always exist. Whether the competition is about human resources, materials or dominance on the world stage and in the marketplace, we can count on it. And this is a good thing. Competition occurs naturally and pushes us to evolve and adapt – reaching new heights that were unimaginable, as well as discovering the unknown. It underpins our capitalistic economy and fuels our position in the world. Competition is the essence of our favorite leisure activity – sports. You might say that the need to compete is programmed in human DNA.

And so, are there battles that we can solve as collaborators and compete against our mutual enemies together? In healthcare, many such foes exist from finding treatments and cures for orphan diseases to solving patient safety issues that affect us all. Can multidisciplinary industry leaders and competitors collaborate and collectively harness their expertise to eliminate healthcare-associated infections and other hospital-acquired conditions? Can we develop an esprit de corps sufficiently focused on defeating these national enemies to fully unite us in this task?

In 2112, I dream that these pernicious problems will be a footnote in history. Primum non nocere (first do no harm) is so fundamental to the provision of quality care that none of us should rest until it is achieved. Granted, the focus on patient safety issues has grown in the past decade or so but most of these efforts have occurred in a silo-fashion and as a result, we have made little progress. Healthcare is too complex for us to pick away at the edges of each recalcitrant problem from the safety of individual manufacturer or discipline domains to sharing only those research and development discoveries that best serve each organization’s or company’s financial success. I dream that every discipline, including furniture manufacturing, bands together in a collaborative partnership to create and implement a campaign plan that results in the product, process and technology innovations essential to eliminating hospital-acquired conditions.

Accomplishing this outcome requires the courage to enlist competitors as collaborators and engage elected officials so that they can ameliorate R &D investment risk by providing innovation incentives and tax relief. The battle’s timing could not be more perfect given CMS’s implementation of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with its triple-aim to optimize health, care and costs. Success will require a fundamental change in how furniture industry leaders view their role in solving these healthcare nemeses. We no longer can afford to spend our healthcare treasure as we have and we are long past the time when we can accept our loved one’s death and injury because of avoidable adverse events. Every discipline that plays a role in healthcare delivery must engage in the battle to eliminate patient harm. So let us proceed as Shakespeare advises and “… screw your courage to the sticking-place and we’ll not fail.”

Eileen Malone Bio:

Eileen Malone, RN, MSN, MS, EDAC supports clients embracing evidence-based design in health facility projects as a means to improve healthcare outcomes. With over thirty years in healthcare, Ms. Malone retired from the United States Army having held a variety of key leadership positions including hospital commander, Army Medical Department CIO, and many nurse practitioner assignments. She holds graduate degrees from Duke University and the National Defense University and is Evidence-based Design Accredited and Certified.

In addition to numerous military awards, Ms. Malone received The Center for Health Design’s Changemaker Award in 2009 and the Leadership Award from the Health Information and Management Systems Society in 2004. She currently serves on the Center’s Research Coalition as well as the Facility Guideline Institute’s 2014 Health Guidelines Revision Committee. Ms. Malone has written many articles and given numerous presentations about evidence-based design and healthcare outcomes. In 2011 she co-authored a white paper, "Furniture Design Features and Healthcare Outcomes."