Don’t Let the Rubber Duckies Fool You. Taking a Lighthearted Approach to Promoting Serious Matters Works for Hospitals.

I just finished reading Dr. Peter Pronovost’s book Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals about patient safety, largely around Central Line Infections and the easy changes hospitals can make that significantly reduce the risk of complications during central line insertion and care afterward. It’s a fabulous – and heartbreaking – read.

The first insight is the importance of distilling key information down to a simple checklist, similar to Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto. It’s a valid and important point: if you seek broad adoption of best practices, you need to make the steps as simple and clear as possible. But I found the second half of his book more interesting, because it explores the tougher question: Once you have the checklist, how do you get it adopted broadly? What if the culture makes the change hard? How do you build awareness of the changes you seek on a large scale, across potentially thousands of doctors, nurses and staff at multiple facilities?

One of Geonetric’s clients, Genesis Health System, happens to be working on exactly this problem. Don Abbott, Nursing Informatics Liaison at Genesis took on this challenge.  Perhaps you’ve seen Oregon Health and Sciences University’s “Pink Glove Dance” designed to raise awareness of breast cancer. Abbott and his team took the “cute dance video for awareness” concept a step further, and used it to educate staff on the steps to prevent central line infections.

Though the audience and topic is narrower than breast cancer awareness, the approach is perfect and illustrates how you can build adoption in a large organization like Genesis:

  • The team that’s (largely) responsible for implementing the procedure made the video
  • The video was filmed at four different locations throughout the health system and included staff at all levels
  • The video is playful – staff is much more likely to remember this tune than what was written in a jargon-laden procedure manual
  • The video is made to be viral – easy to distribute and easy to watch again


Although the team hasn’t figured any statistical data on the video’s impact yet, they have received a lot of positive feedback from both Genesis staff and the industry as a whole:

  • Luther College’s Nursing Program has started to use the video in their classroom for patient safety
  • The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg is using the video to reinforce central line safety for their total parenteral nutrition
  • A nurse in Australia is using the video to present at a conference
  • Staff at Genesis – from nursing to maintenance and housekeeping staff – have been heard singing the catchy jingle

So, don’t let the rubber duckies fool you. There’s no stopping a good idea and an easy-to-remember jingle to get buy-in from your staff and take patient safety to a new level.

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Eric Engelmann

About Eric Engelmann

Eric gets people excited. About healthcare. About technology. About Geonetric. It only takes a few moments of being in his presence to feel his passion and see his vision. A healthcare reform junkie, Eric can usually be found uncovering new ways to show healthcare executives how to leverage technology investments and develop patient portals that will improve care delivery. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, he began his career in technology, founding Geonetric and never looking back. Through his leadership, Geonetric continuously receives honors and recognitions, including being named a Best Place to Work by Modern Healthcare, Software Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa, and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five years running. When he’s not sharing his vision for the future of healthcare or accepting awards on behalf of his company, he can be found having lunch with his daughter at a local elementary school or donning lederhosen and entertaining his team at the Annual Engelmann Oktoberfest.

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