The Google Hospital: What healthcare can learn from Google

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According to a Google spokesman, the company’s overarching philosophy aspires

to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world”.

After reading a little about their lofty goals, I thought to myself: boy, we should do that at the hospital. That would be awesome. A Google Hospital!

Now, like all of you, I’ve had my fair share of fantasies about getting a job at the Googleplex. If you don’t know what this is, Google it and spend some time dreaming about sipping unlimited free organic-soy-no-foam-extra-hot-lattes while on route to a massage, followed by a power nap during the middle of your workday. Free food, video games, exercise classes, and ping pong are just a few of the ways in which Google is trying to keep their employees “happy” and thus more productive. And productive they are! In 2014, according to the Interbrand ranking, Google was the second most valuable brand in the world (behind Apple) with a valuation of $107.4 billion.

So what are the key contributors to this company’s success? While they appear to have created the perfect work environment, and were recently voted the top company to work for in America by Fortune magazine, there is a little more to their strategy than that. When Google established itself as a company in 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the founders) compiled a list of “Ten Things We Know to be True”. This list has served as a mission statement, which ultimately guides the company’s goals, culture, and decision-making. Despite being a multinational corporation with approximately 50,000 employees, the top executives continue to revisit this list periodically to ensure that their 10 truths still hold true.

Interestingly, many of the items on the list can be applied to healthcare, and more specifically, a hospital environment.

What would a Google Hospital look like?

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

Patient-centered care is not a new concept by any means, but how often do we find ourselves getting caught up in competing interests, like academic appointments, job security, or patient flow. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are there to treat the individual patients in front of us; everything else will fall into place if we focus first and foremost on that.

2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

The hospital is one of the largest multidisciplinary settings around. While we are personally responsible for mastering our individual roles, we also need to be figuring out more efficient ways of working together within a team framework. So really, we need to do two things really, really well. First, we should be striving to be increasingly competent in our own positions. Second, we need to fully understand how our own positions fit into a much larger system.

3. Fast is better than slow.

Efficiency is really sexy right now in healthcare. It’s all about time these days and about finding ways to cut those times without cutting quality. It’s presumed to be better for the patient and it’s definitely better for the pocketbook. In the hospital, fast is better than slow.

4. Democracy on the web works.

This one is a stretch I know, they can’t all fit perfectly. I said NEARLY all items apply. (Democracy is a good form of government, I support it) However, even healthcare isn’t immune to the internet, with online MD/hospital/etc ratings, treatment guidelines, support forums, etc., gaining popularity – and perhaps weight – over time.

5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.

What the Googlers are saying is that the world is increasingly mobile: people want access to information wherever they are, whenever they need it. Healthcare is no different; technology has enabled us to quickly access information, promptly connect information to the people making clinical decisions, and review information at patients’ bedsides. Telemedicine is also making great advances, and soon you may even be able to access healthcare expertise on your mobile!

6. You can make money without doing evil.

I’m going to say it, healthcare is a business, even here in Canada, whether you like it or not. I’m not saying that financial factors are unimportant; however, our publicly funded system is intended to provide high quality medical care to all, notwithstanding the costs.

7. There’s always more information out there.

Pretty sure this one also applies to medicine and healthcare (please take note of the sarcasm). Everything is constantly evolving, we do not have all the answers, and we are going to be wrong often. We all need to continue to search for the right answers, to challenge what’s already assumed to be known, and to correct and accept when new information proves that we were wrong. Staying up-to-date and continuing to learn throughout our careers isn’t a choice, it’s a responsibility…except when it comes to vaccines, that’s one issue that has been put to bed. Vaccinate your damn children.

8. The need for information crosses all borders.

Technology has made the world a lot smaller. Information travels fast in the digital age and we have much to learn from other healthcare models around the world. The problems and issues we are facing at our own institutional level are probably not all that unique; we need to continue to collaborate with those outside of our own system.

9. You can be serious without a suit.

Casual work environments pride themselves on placing an emphasis on comfort over formality. I’m not speaking about work attire, but about creating an atmosphere that is conducive to employees feeling comfortable enough to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions with their colleagues and their superiors. In a casual work environment, ideas are developed through the contributions of many, not the direction of an elite few. And in terms of work attire, it doesn’t get more casual than scrubs!

10. Great just isn’t good enough.

We see being great at something as a starting point, not an endpoint. We set ourselves goals we know we can’t reach yet, because we know that by stretching to meet them we can get further than we expected. Through innovation and iteration, we aim to take things that work well and improve upon them in unexpected ways.” -Larry Page and Sergey Brin

I’m not saying that we should adopt the vision that has lead to the success of arguably one of the most successful businesses on earth…. But should we?

Feature image obtained from Flickr user Integrated Change.

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Nick Costain

Nick Costain

Nick Costain is a third year EM resident at the University of Ottawa. He is most proud of his incredible spouse Erin and his two daughters, Zoe and Ruby.
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Frontdoor 2 Healthcare

Frontdoor 2 Healthcare

Frontdoor2Healthcare, founded by Dr. Edmund Kwok in 2012, provides editorial and commentary on issues affecting Canadian healthcare from the emergency department’s “front door” perspective. Frontdoor posts allow for open sharing of the diverse opinions and perspectives of emergency physicians from across the country.
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