Leaders Voice; Words to Inspire | Nikkei special edition

Powered by BizGate

*Information accurate as of time of publication.

Developing a Clinic That Draws People In

Eiichi Iritani,
Iritani Medical Clinic

Our Staff Are the Source of Our Principles

Iritani Medical Clinic is run by the Shoeikai medical corporation, and it may at first glance appear to be nothing more than an ordinary local community-based clinic. But I can say with confidence that what sets us apart from other clinics is our uncompromising commitment to establishing shared principles throughout the clinic, and to human resource training.

Our first principle is to reassure and deliver happiness to all those we interact with. Our second principle is to use training as the means to become a model clinic that draws people in. By that, I mean a clinic where training provided to staff enables them to deliver meticulous services to patients, which serves to attract patients, naturally, but also attracts talented individuals who want to work here.

I personally decided on just these two principles as chairman, but in fact we have numerous other principles as well, and those were thought up by the staff themselves. I’m sure that many clinics find it difficult to get all members of staff to understand the chairman’s principles 100 percent. To raise the level of understanding to 100 percent, however, it’s crucial to get members of staff actively involved. They can come up with their own principles based on those of the chairman and set monthly targets for putting them into practice. This is the way to ensure that the principles reflect the aspirations of the staff. If principles are devised with aspirations in mind, they are easier to communicate to newer staff and they steadily become well established throughout the clinic.

But however helpful a principle may be to patients; the purpose is defeated if unreasonable demands are made on staff and they end up exhausted. To ensure that our staff are also happy, I get the frontline staff members who actually deliver our services to come up with principles they want to aim for. I think that making staff feel actively involved is crucial to ensuring that everybody at the clinic is on the same page.
Eiichi Iritani(Iritani Medical Clinic)

Making Use of Success Stories from Companies in Other Industries

When I turned my attention to the training required to put our principles into practice, I realized that it wasn’t really possible to consider the quality of training within the limited context of provision within a clinic. Having started initially by copying examples of successful training implemented by business proprietors in the healthcare industry, I now also draw on success stories in other industries. Given that I want to implement initiatives that will make both patients and staff happy, the initiatives underway at companies outside the healthcare industry serve as very useful examples. For example, we’ve recently introduced English language classes at the clinic as one of our benefits for employees. It’s a way for staff to gain new knowledge, and if they get really proficient at English we’ll be able to provide a wider range of healthcare services.

On a different note, one initiative I’m focusing on to improve our clinic’s setup is creating a system to implement a PDCA cycle. Until recently, if something happened, staff would always report it to me and I’d decide how to deal with the situation. But as the organization grew I couldn’t keep an eye on everything, and response in an emergency could potentially have been impeded. I therefore changed the procedure so that staff would deal with issues on the spot as far as possible, and report to me afterwards. And because the staff members who were actually delivering services then started to discuss among themselves and work to resolve issues, they themselves came to realize that problems can be solved while they’re still small so they don’t grow into major problems. Consequently, they started to bring up even the smallest issues and devise strategies for solving them. And as a result of implementing this PDCA cycle the clinic operated increasingly smoothly.
Eiichi Iritani(Iritani Medical Clinic)

Training Nurtures Individuals and Grows Organizations

Healthcare in Japan is protected by the state to some extent because of the insurance system. However, with economic changes expected to make the operation of clinics increasingly challenging in future, we now need to aim to be a clinic of choice for patients. It’s important to me that this clinic is run by talented individuals fully committed to our principles. Even if the business continued to go well, I wouldn’t want to grow it by simply increasing the number of sites like a franchising operation. As a medical corporation, Shoeikai aims to carefully develop new clinics one at a time, ensuring that each one is an entity in its own right. In doing so, it will be vital to provide training to increase personnel who can communicate the principles we’ve devised and the path we’ve trodden. We must pass our principles on by nurturing staff who fully understand them and communicating seamlessly.

To help staff fully understand our principles, therefore, I’ve recently been providing opportunities for everybody, including newly hired staff, to speak their minds proactively. We also hold “drinks meetings” once a month. Staff discuss a topic in groups at their tables and new staff present each group’s opinions as representatives. I’m convinced that, as a result of holding these discussions over drinks, the communication is livelier and people exchange opinions more proactively. But it took time, of course, to create the shared mindset of everybody being so open to each other. I think it’s because I’ve always trusted our staff that I’ve finally succeeded in establishing such an open environment.

I’ve worked in healthcare for 20 years, and when I first opened the clinic, my interactions with staff were guided by my belief that I knew all about the actual delivery of services. I now see that as a “top-down” approach. However, I was forced to realize that, in reality, frontline delivery of services often didn’t go as I’d envisaged. The key is to trust what your staff on the frontline are telling you, and have the courage to leave things up to them. And after leaving things up to them, I’m convinced that the most important thing for a business proprietor to do is be prepared to take ultimate responsibility.

I want to continue nurturing talented individuals with the strength of character to do their utmost to respond to customers’ wishes, as we aim to be a clinic that draws in both patients and staff.