February 2009

Accountability

President Obama has invited the American people to hold his Administration accountable for the results of the stimulus plan. It’s a concept that many find refreshing, not to say long overdue, in light of the multiple failures of personal responsibility our society has endured lately.

In the coming national debate over health care, I suspect that accountability will also become a major theme for providers. Already, hospital performance has entered the public domain. We're seeing more and more initiatives designed to measure the quality of care, with comparative scores posted on the Web. And in just the past week or so, a major insurer introduced a Zagat-style rating system on doctors’ bedside manner. Research financed by external sources, meanwhile, has long had regular progress reviews that have determined the continuation (or not) of funding.

Public scrutiny or no, I believe strongly that accountability is a principle we should stand by in every facet of our work. Given the vast amounts of documentation we must file for compliance purposes, you may feel that we are already held as accountable to society as anyone could ask or want us to be. But there is a deeper form of accountability. To me, it's a matter of saying to each other, in essence: "You can count on me."

If we are to become a truly world-class institution, we need that kind of commitment from every person who works here. Without accountability, we can’t tell objectively whether we're investing in the right things. We can’t pinpoint bottlenecks that are due, not to shortcomings in performance, but to flaws in process design. And we can’t reward people properly.

When it comes to the federal government or our country’s financial institutions, I think we’re all for accountability. It’s my hope that we will also embrace it here at “home”—accountability to those we serve, and to each other, all the way up and down the line.