Dr. Elaine Schattner writes an excellent blog entitled “Medical Lessons: On being a patient and a doctor, cancer, and communicating about health care.” Many thanks to her for this thoughtful review of Goal Play!

Notes, on Running a Hospital and ‘Goal Play’
By Elaine Schattner, MD, on March 18th, 2012

Paul F. Levy ran the Beth Israel Dea­coness Medical Center as CEO from 2002 until early January, 2011. Before taking on the position as CEO of the Harvard-affiliated hybrid hos­pital in financial straits, the MIT grad held lead­ership posi­tions in the Mass­a­chu­setts Water Resources Authority and Department of Public Util­ities. Starting earlier, in 1989, he coached his daughter’s soccer team for a long time.

I have never met Paul Levy, an on-line col­league with common interests in health care delivery and patient advocacy, in person. I first learned of his blog from a physician at a nearby hos­pital who spoke highly of his blog. How fan­tastic, my friend con­sidered, that the head of a large hos­pital writes openly on sub­jects like medical errors, budget con­straints, and other issues. I took a look, then, at Running a Hos­pital, what is now Not Running a Hos­pital, and became hooked.

His new book, Goal Play! takes the message of teamwork on the soccer field to a big insti­tution, where workers need get along and lives are at stake, every day. He uses selected stories to illus­trate par­ticular points. It’s not a long book, and reads easily. At one level it’s a simple message, if you – as a coach or CEO – identify and work with each person’s strengths, you can develop and cul­tivate those assets and lead the group to success.

At another level, Levy gets somewhat deeper. He writes on cul­pa­bility, exam­i­nation and self-examination. One focus — as a coach might con­sider how best to respond to a player’s fumble or a game lost – is on medical errors. Blaming indi­vidual doctors or nurses for sin­gular events can be coun­ter­pro­ductive, he argues through selected stories. Rather, a culture of fear of reporting or admitting errors can be harmful. Because some mis­takes arise from failures at a sys­temic level, a respon­sible leader might choose to examine what went wrong, to learn from the error and lessen the chances of its hap­pening again.

My favorite part might sound dull, in terms of hos­pital admin­is­tration, but it speaks to any person with sco­l­iosis or, say, a broken arm. Levy details when, upon review of com­plaints at the ortho­pedics clinic having to do with average waiting times of 3 hours, the hos­pital assembled a “team” (aka a com­mittee) to figure out why it took so long for patients to see the ortho­pe­dists. Through a sys­temic analysis and finding unduly long waits for x-rays that held up a multi-step process, the average wait time for ortho­pedics patients was reduced to 1 hour. You go, com­mittee like that!

So I’m glad for that small improvement in the lives of ortho­pedics patients at one large medical center in Boston, and for a book on how thoughtful lead­ership of a hos­pital can make a dif­ference. Goal Play! artic­u­lates how pos­itive, team-oriented guidance and genuine concern for employees’ well-being can have a pos­itive impact on the lives and careers of valued health care workers and their patients.