No Short Cuts to the Top!

I just finished rereading the book “No Shortcuts to the Top” by our most famous American mountain climber, Ed Viesturs. It has been an inspiring book for me when it comes to life and business. If you have never heard of Ed, he is the first American to summit the fourteen 8,000 meter mountains in the world without bottled oxygen, which 99.8% of the population cannot do. So, why am I drawn to Ed’s success story and how does it relate to hospital value analysis?  

Mountain climbing is a very dangerous sport and there are only a few hundred true professionals who climb some of the tallest mountains in the world. Ed was part of that class of climbers who ascended mountains at heights where airplanes cruise (25,000 to 29,000 feet). Ed developed a set of rules that he lived by on the mountains and while at home. He always did his homework and trained his body for peak performance before every climb. He did not want to get caught on a mountain not knowing important information or not being physically prepared for a crucial climb. Ed was ALL-IN every time he tackled a big peak. His most important rule was that he did not take chances with his life on questionable areas on mountains where many others did. Many of those unnecessary risks ended up costing people their lives. With Ed, it was better to turn around and come back another time than to risk his life in order to climb one of those big peaks. It took Ed 18 years and 30 expeditions to reach the top of the fourteen 8,000 meter peaks.

In the value analysis world, we can envision that our value analysis studies can be looked at as climbing that insurmountable mountain in order to obtain the quality and cost results for our organization. Plus, as with Ed, once you get to the top of the mountain you have to climb down the mountain safely in order to move on to the next mountain challenge. In our case, we have to not only find the savings and get the buy-in of our clinicians and staff but  also successfully implement our recommendations throughout our organizations, all while gaining the buy-in of our customers to this change. We must also realize that not every value analysis study is going to be successful and we may have our own turnarounds before we reach the summit, but we can always come back and attack these studies again another day.

The big take away from Ed Viesturs’ elite example is to develop a set of success principles (rules) that you always work from, and not to compromise your systems in the name of short cuts to the top. Although, it might not be our lives that are endangered when we take shortcuts, it may be the quality of patient care or our hospital’s bottom line that may suffer if we don’t uncover all the quality or savings improvements on a value analysis study. As supply/value analysis professionals, we are the elite group who needs to lead our healthcare organizations into the next level of savings and quality improvement which is critical to the future for all.