Cornell University

Healthcare Transformation Project

16 East 34th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016 Contact: 212-340-2809

Quality and Systems Improvement Workshop: "Why Should Unions Lead on Quality and Innovation?"

Representatives from five Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local unions across the country attended a two-day working conference on April 1st and 2nd "Why Should Unions Lead on Quality and Innovation?" This working conference was convened by the Healthcare Transformation Project to encourage unions to make strategic use of labor-management partnerships to focus on quality improvement activities by increasing frontline staff involvement. By identifying mutual goals and refocusing activities on quality improvement together, labor and management will ultimately be able to ultimately achieve the Triple Aim: improving quality of patient care and their experiences, improving the health of all Americans, and reducing healthcare costs. 

Farbod and Mike Bennett

Key presentations were: "Case for Change", delivered by John August, Associate Director, Healthcare Transformation Project, framed the healthcare crisis as a social justice issue highlighting the lack of access to quality healthcare and poor outcomes despite extremely high spending in the US. Howard Berliner, Policy Director for SEIU, helped participants learn about the changes in reimbursement and emphasis on clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The panel on Labor-Management Partnershipincluded Mike Bennett, former President and Chairman, UAW Local 1853 at Saturn Corporation (left) and John August. They discussed the importance and challenges of establishing and maintaining labor-management partnerships at both the Saturn Corporation and at Kaiser Permanente in order to provide frontline staff opportunities to improve our delivery system. Dr. Farbod Raiszadeh, MD/PhD, Cardiologist and former President, Committee of Interns and Residents (far left) conducted a workshop on how unions need to restructure themselves in order to be a partner with management to improve quality of care and to address patient safety issues. By focusing on such activities, CIR has been able to "create value for everyone," Raiszadeh explained, from patients to residents and hospitals. 

Stu_Winby_QSIPA workshop on quality improvement approaches was conducted by Barbara Conrad, Quality Care Training Program Coordinator of the SEIU Healthcare PA Training and Education Fund. Stu Winby (right), President of Sapience, conducted a third workshop focused on innovation and rapid cycle process improvement. Steve Greenhouse, the labor reporter for the New York Times, shared his views on the current state of unions in this country and suggested that they need to be both innovative and connected more to patients and the communities if they are to survive.

One participant commented, "I really liked learning more about what other groups are doing around partnership work."  These sites will reconvene in six months as part of an ongoing learning collaborative for SEIU hospitals engaging in partnership and quality improvement projects. Participants included representatives from SEIU Local 73 (Cook County Health and Hospitals System), SEIU Local 721 (Los Angeles Department of Health Services), SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, Doctors Council, and Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR).

Keywords: SEIU, union building, innovation, safety-net hospitals

Posted on: March 10, 2014

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