The Top 10 Patient Safety Roles for the CEO – Part 3

In my first two posts on this topic, I covered SIX Critical Roles CEOs can play in your organization’s quality and safety program. The CEO provides such a pivotal role, that the difference between high preforming and mediocre organizations often comes down to the CEO’s level of involvement.

Here are the final four CRITICAL ROLES for your CEO:

7.  The CEO is intolerant of holdouts.

Over the years, I’ve seen some of the best quality programs derailed by an assortment of leaders. I’ve seen programs derailed by every C-suite executive – the CMO, the CNO, the CIO, the CEO, the CFO, and even a new VP of Quality!

And because each C-suite executive plays such a vital role in the program it only takes one. But starting today, let’s agree that every C-suite executive MUST support and play an active role in the quality program – and with 110% commitment.

To our CEOs: tolerate no holdouts, no saboteurs, and when they surface, deal with them immediately. It only takes one to derail your entire program and with it, many years of work by hundreds of people. I encourage immediate action because the ones that are hurt the most by these saboteurs are the very people we’re here to serve – OUR PATIENTS.

8.  The CEO becomes well versed in quality and safety.

The CEO must have an advanced understanding of quality and safety, o ensure a world-class program. A CEO who can demonstrate a deep understanding of these topics from the podium to the hallway can drive a program like no other. There is nothing more impressive, nor more powerful, than a CEO who can speak “quality.” Bruce Hagen at Ohio Health is a perfect example. The hospitals he’s led have all ended up on the top quality lists and it started with his leadership.

9.  The CEO ensures there are appropriate resources.

I’ve visited hundreds of organizations and less than 5% were appropriately staffed, had the correct expertise, or had the tools they needed to succeed. In one 40+ hospital system, there were an average of 2.5 FTEs in the quality department. In another organization, key areas of expertise were missing and staffing models were as varied as the number of hospitals.

Although they aren’t many resources or benchmarks for quality department staffing, it can be really simple. For those interested, I’d be delighted to send you a white paper that outlines an ideal design for an effective and cost efficient quality and safety department. It outlines the number of staff, the expertise and tools they need, all based on bed size. Just drop me a note at

10. The CEO chairs or Co-chairs the Quality Committee.

It’s a powerful demonstration when the CEO chairs the organization’s quality committee. It underscores the importance and priority the CEO places on this agenda. It accelerates performance, it improves goal acquisition, and it ensures accountability. No one wants to report out at a meeting chaired by the CEO when they’re failing to make the mark. They will do everything humanly possible to make their projects successful. In every instance where I’ve seen the CEO make this commitment, quality and safety performance soars.

Each of 10 Roles is an absolute.   There can be no compromise and all must be adopted. There can be no slippage and there can be no crisis that derails the CEOs commitment. Having observed hundreds of organizations over the past 20 years, winning organizations do this without fail. Mediocre performers don’t.

Please share this with your CEO. I truly believe it’s vital to all of our organizations future and continued success.

Question: In what ways does your CEO lead your quality and safety program? How have you gotten them to take the lead? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!