masthead business case for safety L

Mar 05, 2018

The Business Case for Safety

Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes


Austin O’Connell, head of quality in Diagnostic Imaging at Philips, talks with Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, and chief clinical and safety officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, about the importance of creating an integrated approach to safe healthcare that resonates both on the floor and in the boardroom as we move from volume- to value-based care.

Philips’ Austin O’Connell  – Last year, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) created a resource for healthcare organizations on Optimizing a Business Case for Safe Healthcare. How has this helped to raise the profile of safety and quality and the need to make it a priority beyond safety officer discussions and into c-suite agendas?


IHI’s Tejal Gandhi – This resource was designed to help teams show the value of safety initiatives not only to patients and staff but to financial officers with bottom-line business results, which can be difficult to ascertain sometimes. The first step is adjusting the perception of safety as simply a “cost center” and then showing the tangible broader value of safety across the organization.


Philips’ Austin O’Connell – Yes, it is critically important to blend that into one equation that recognizes organizations can increase revenue by ensuring the equipment on the floor is safe, reliable, effective and the staff is trained to use them safely, reliably and effectively with patients. That’s the value proposition for safety and quality that connects to both reducing costs and improving patient outcomes that the c-suite wants to hear.

The Business Case for Safety

IHI’s Tejal Gandhi – We all know patient and staff safety should be a core value of healthcare organizations, but, for some, limited resources or other priorities sometimes interfere with that goal. Ideally, healthcare organizations shouldn’t take an “either/or approach” to safety, they should be leading a culture of safety. To do that, safety must be at the core of operations as a strategic imperative for every decision that is made in the organization. 


Philips’ Austin O’Connell – Your framework for a “total systems approach to safety” where everyone becomes a stakeholder in the success of the system is right on track. There needs to be a common goal that everyone is driving toward to create a total quality mindset. In Diagnostic Imaging at Philips, we focus on understanding all the people in the imaging value chain and their needs really well so that they can do their jobs more effectively and we can reduce any possible reason for human error such as lack of training, decision errors or workflow constraints. 


When we introduce human beings into any system there’s always the potential for human error. However, a true quality mindset means not just identifying the human error that came into play but determining how the system or workflow process can be improved to reduce the chance of human error in the future. To that end, we’re always thinking about continuous improvement in product design and technology innovation and how it can be informed by user input, market feedback and real insights from real patients to improve safety and quality in imaging, which we know contributes to not only the imaging system but the patient experience as well.

The Business Case for Safety

IHI’s Tejal Gandhi – Continuous improvement, understanding needs and roles across the organization and leveraging expertise are all important in safety initiatives. When I’ve talked about the three keys to a compelling business case for patient safety, collaborating far and wide is number one. 


I explain how safety professionals and finance teams must work together because their shared knowledge can demonstrate how important patient safety initiatives are to the organization’s reputation and market share. They need to develop a common language to help frame safety issues as important business concerns. But collaboration shouldn’t stop there. As you said, insights from other stakeholders, colleagues, or any number of potential subject matter experts must help inform the safety initiative.


Philips’ Austin O’Connell – In imaging, reliability and consistency are key tenets of ensuring quality outcomes. In Diagnostic Imaging at Philips, we have processes in place to consistently monitor and measure to ensure uptime, maintain quality, and mitigate risk. While these measures are ultimately designed for delivering patient care that is safe and effective, they also provide business benefits because by not having to bring people back in for re-scans, healthcare organizations can increase throughput which reduces overall cost. It’s about that holistic view of enabling hospitals to deliver care in the most expeditious way but also the most caring and safest way not just for patients but staff as well. The two goals can co-exist and be mutually beneficial.


IHI’s Tejal Gandhi – That’s true. We advocate choosing the right data to tell the story from both a financial and clinical perspective. It’s important to gather key metrics and trends from financial and clinical departments and to reference state or national data when available to support safety initiatives. Some types of metrics such as staff retention or patient satisfaction may be less easily quantified in terms of “hard dollars” but they tie into reliability and consistency efforts like the ones you’ve mentioned. You can’t make a compelling business case for safety if you can’t quantify it.  

The Business Case for Safety

Philips’ Austin O’Connell - With the shift from volume to value-based care, it seems the role of safety will be even more critical. Everything you do from a business perspective, from a servicing perspective or a product development, design and delivery perspective should very deliberately tie back to that patient-centric safety view in order to drive value. In my mind, the shift to value-based care reimbursement, in and of itself, helps make a more compelling business case for safety!


IHI’s Tejal Gandhi – Yes, I agree that the shift to value-based performance reimbursement models reinforces that investments in safety and quality will not only impact patients’ lives but improve the overall health system. Value equals outcomes over cost, and now, those outcomes very visibly include safety and quality. We all need to work together - in industry, at the IHI and within healthcare organizations - to make it easier to uncover the correlations between safety and quality and the connection between investments and optimizing organizational performance. Sharing best practices, supporting each other and having collaborative discussions like this are the right way forward.


About Innovation Matters

Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.


Click here to read moreClick here to read less

You are about to visit a Philips global content page

You are about to visit the Philips USA website.

Share on social media

  • Link copied



Austin O’Connell

Austin O’Connell

Austin O’Connell is Head of Quality and Regulatory in Diagnostic Imaging at Philips and has worked in the medical device industry for 17 years.

Follow me on

Tejal Gandhi

Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS

Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, is Chief Clinical and Safety Officer, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), where she leads IHI programs focusing on improving patient and workforce safety.

Follow me on

Related news

You are about to visit a Philips global content page

You are about to visit the Philips USA website.

Our site can best be viewed with the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Firefox.