Healthcare leadership and applied philosophy: An essential resource

15 Jun 2018

As healthcare leaders, we are constantly in search of a better way to do our important work and practice our profession. We seek out seminars, conferences, workshops, books, and articles to improve our effectiveness and promote the wellness of our staff, patients, and organizations. We examine what is going on in our organizations, measure outcomes, and strive for continuous improvement and efficiency. Why might this be a cause for concern? Surely efficient, well-managed hospitals must be good for their patients, staff, and (in a publicly funded health system) society in general. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The drive for improvement can create unintended consequences that, in the context of healthcare provision, may be criticized as unethical, may distort clinical priorities and has even led to tragedy for individual patients and their families including, in one well-documented example from the United Kingdom, the deaths of up to 1200 patients in one hospital. In this article, we briefly review some of the risks and benefits of using goals and metrics to improve healthcare and introduce some tools to help healthcare leaders develop processes and cultures that help, not harm patients. These tools come from an unexpected source—philosophy.