On Monday I attended a presentation at the RSA from Dutch entrepreneur Jos de Blok (which is embedded below). He was in town to receive the Albert Medal, which is awarded to people who are at the forefront of driving social innovation.
de Blok was chosen for the award based upon his work at Buurtzorg, the nursing organization he runs in the Netherlands.
The company, founded in 2007, takes a novel approach to organizing the nurses under its care. There are approximately 6,500 nurses working for Buurtzorg across 630 independent teams. Between them, they care for around 60,000 patients per year.
The cool thing about the organization is however, that they can operate such a structure with just 35 back office personnel.
Each of the teams has a maximum of 12 nurses, with each nurse largely responsible for their own work and behaviours. For instance, they plan their own activities, organize their own education, manage their own finances, and co-ordinate their own activities within the team.
The aim is to optimize the autonomy within each team by stripping away the hierarchy and making things as simple as possible. The nurses tend to be highly skilled, with generalists particularly favoured by the organization.
The teams are encouraged to foster extensive informal networks within their neighbourhoods, and have exceptional relationships with other stakeholders in the care of their patients.
They make good use of enterprise social networks in-house to exchange knowledge and display performance dashboards for the various teams, with a particular focus on the outcomes achieved rather than the inputs of each nurse.
And it seems to be working. Buurtzorg have won the employer of the year award in the Netherlands in 3 of the last 4 years and there is a tremendous sense of community amongst the Buurtzorg family.
It has become one of the fastest growing organizations in Holland, and the Buurtzorg approach is slowly being exported to other countries, with a pilot due to launch in Japan in the coming months.
All in all it sounds like a great approach to more enlightened healthcare that is delivering great results for patients, and a highly engaged workforce.
A nice example of the autonomy and community spirit within the nurse teams comes from the Rollatorrace event. Some of the elderly patients would complain to their nurses that there were never any sporting events for people like them.
So the nurse got together with insurers and town officials to put on a race for people with zimmerframes. You can check out the clip of the race in action below.