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Wonder Women of Quality: Dr. Ann Colbourne -

They’re delivering a one-two punch to defects. They’re ridding the earth of process waste. They’re on the front lines delivering customer service perfection. They’re in leadership striving to make a difference in the world. They’re kicking process improvement butt! The Wonder Women of Quality are here!

This month in the Wonder Women of Quality pantheon we are honored to highlight Dr. Ann Colbourne! Ann was the Senior Medical Director of Culture, Transformation and Innovation at the Alberta Health Services. She was also the Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Alberta. Ann has served in a variety of roles as a clinician, academic and healthcare leader including work at the Mayo Clinic, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Canadian Diabetes Association. In 2011, she received the Mayo Clinic Plummer Society Award of Excellence as the first woman and the first international recipient of the award. Most recently, she was appointed Chair of the Board of Governors at NorQuest College in Alberta. Ann holds an MD, BMedSc and BSc in Biochemistry from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and an MA in Theology from the University of Oxford.

Ann was also featured in the 40th Anniversary of Rhodes Women.

Here are Ann’s answers to a few of our questions:

What is your Quality Mission?

Inspire a quantum cultural leap from an orbit of complacent complaining into a sphere of competent curiosity. What if every moment inspired the thought, “That’s really interesting! I wonder…” The fresh start of a new day affords abundant opportunity to reflect, learn and improve. Open hearts and minds filter experiences into packets of possibility. Whereas some passively acquiesce and accept what is, others actively describe the opportunity to explore.

My mission is to harness the observations, the irritations, the obstacles, the inefficiencies as the places in which we will reflect to learn and having done so, combine our talents as together we chart our way forward.

What is your Quality Superpower?

  1. Curiosity – unlimited desire to learn and know
  2. Self-awareness – keen understanding of my strengths and limitations
  3. Environmental Awareness – appreciating actions, interactions and reactions
  4. Positivity – an optimistic mindset reflecting a strengths-based approach
  5. Belief – intrinsic potential to make a difference
  6. Tenacity – stick-with-it-ness that crosses the line from possible to achievement
  7. Facilitation – strategic effort to gather all superpowers into the journey
  8. Leadership – multi-faceted, and adaptive; lead from behind, in front, on the side and in the midst as circumstances require; light and firm touches
  9. Collaboration – clarity of common purpose in mutual effort
  10. Power of Possible – energy to move forward in belief

What is your Quality Kryptonite?

“Yah but, it will never happen here!” Negative thinking drains momentum, dissipates energy and crushes positive morale. The most pervasive obstacles to goal achievement are personal. I reflect on obstacles and repetitively see the power of negative thinking; the mindset that delivers learned helplessness in a complaining place.

It is the attitude that prematurely closes conversations, defies engagement and interferes with energized collaboration. While many will think about systems issues that undermine quality aspirations, it is the human element that does or does not move us forward – together.

What are some of your Quality Victories?

Telehealth Enhanced Care Insulin Pump Program (TECIPP)

In this era of person-centeredness, investing in enhanced competence in personal wellness is fundamental. Our insulin pump program featured a client cohort directed collaborative care team that used an iterative conversation both at the personal care level as well as at the client cohort – clinical team interaction level to inform program evolution. Using town halls, cohort and individual data as well as technology, this clinical program delivered wellness, self-care competence, milestone achievement and positive experience, in a time before it was trendy to do so. Through this truly collaborative, evidence informed, iterative program, we learned what it really means to be person-centered.

Learning in Chronic Disease Prevention and Management Teams

Exceptional care in Chronic Disease requires complex interaction to establish a common view, if you like, a “working from the same page” approach to deliver wellness. The complexities of person-centered level-setting in primary through quaternary care, assumptions, skills and attitudes and norms require intention in dialogue and conflict management.

In one Canadian province, in establishing team norms for diabetes care, we adapted a physician-oriented continuing education program into a collaborative program delivered by the team, for the team. The impact of this approach strengthened lifelong learning skills, collaboration and revision of normative thinking about specific aspects of care. Through dialogue, within and across disciplines, the team acquired enhanced capacity and competence in care.

Hospital Demand Capacity

In large hospitals, based on historic data, we can reasonably anticipate today’s care requirements. More specifically, based on how we distribute daily care needs, we can anticipate how resources (e.g., beds, staffing) should be allocated across clinical services.

In one large Canadian hospital, we adapted service delivery, admission and bed management protocols to achieve optimal care alignment: right care, right place, right team, right time. Additionally, through a Lean approach we achieved a team level understanding of flow demands and performance expectations. The impact was a multi-year improved, sustained access to care (ALOS/ELOS at 80% of benchmark) and a generative care culture.

Coherence in Collaborative Care

How does a new, complex, large health system establish norms of Collaborative Care? In one Canadian province, we created a fully integrated collaborative care model program with three pillars: person-centeredness, team effectiveness, and quality management competence.

Using evidence, we wove leading practices into a high-fidelity program of behaviors that will adapt to any care setting and through practice over time, will deliver exemplar collaboration in person-centered care. We described competence at individual, team and system levels. Using an integrated approach to change and project management, we developed organizational competence for scalable, implementation of integrated practices to achieve targeted outcomes. We evolved from a cultural push to a pull as experience created desire for adoption.

Do you have any Words of Wisdom?

Believe in yourself. Every day, you see things that work well and things that could be even better. Through reflection, your curiosity finds expression in “I wonder…; what if…” Your unique experiences explored with others form the beginning of the quality journey and can only fully achieve if you are part of the conversation. Every person has a voice and every voice matters.

Articulate your core values. Over a lifetime, we evolve a sense of self that helps center us in our days. In exploring possible, it is important to harness that sense of self to know where your “lines” are. We pursue new ideas and in so doing understand the notion of actions and reactions. Before taking action, fully consider the possible reactions and your thoughts about those outcomes.

Be courageous. It is scary to let go in order to grasp onto something new. Anxiety over change is a common human emotion. Acknowledge the emotions that will come as you move from here to there. Know that you have the personal strength and resilience to leap forward into a very exciting journey.

Be reflective. Use the quiet spaces of your day to think, “What did I learn today?” Establish an intentional reflective routine that allows you to mine the riches of your experience to discover new treasures and opportunities for improvement. Gather those observations and prioritize ones to share.

Reinforce your learning. What just happened and what did I learn? What made the difference? How can I reliably achieve that same experience or make it even better? Repetition with intention is key.

Finally, never give up. You are a critical part of many ecosystems. You make a difference, every day. Learn from the results of trying – try and try again. Together we make a difference.

Thanks again to Dr. Ann Colbourne for her quality thoughts!