Better Together: Strengthening relationships one tool at a time

December 6, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Each month, the high reliability team shared a “Tool of the Month” to help us improve our workplace and limit preventable errors.
  • The tools included relationship skills, three-way repeat back, STAR, numeric and phonetic clarification, SBAR, and validate and verify.
  • High reliability stories show real-life examples of these skills in action at Michigan Medicine.

Over the past year, our work environments have all been unique. Some have collaborated in-person with colleagues, many from home offices and others directly in patient care settings. No matter where we accomplish our everyday work, one thing remains the same: the idea that we are “better together.”

Through the use of our HRO Universal Relationship and Reliability Skills, we have learned to become better communicators, strengthen relationships with others and prevent patient harm. Each of these skills and tools contributes to a culture of teamwork in our organization.

A look into our HRO toolkit

Each month, a relationship and reliability skill or “Tool of the Month” is shared in Headlines and promoted across the organization with an explanation and examples of how it can be used.

Although almost all Michigan Medicine faculty and staff have gone through HRO training, it’s always beneficial to be reminded of the learned tools.

To celebrate our HRO journey over the past year, let’s take a look back at those that were shared: 

Positivity is key

This month, the focus is on 5:1 feedback, which means that we are most helpful when giving at least five behavior-affirming piece of feedback for every one behavior-shaping feedback.

People are often more responsive to positive feedback, so this tool is essential for all peer-to-peer interactions, not only leaders and their team members. Next time you see a good practice such as hand washing, labeling specimens at the bedside or reading signs before opening doors, give your peer a smile, thumbs up, say thank you or even give them a compliment!

High reliability in action

It’s always good to learn new things, but it’s even more important to put them to use. Throughout the year, the HRO team has collected sightings of our relationship and reliability skills and tools in action. A few are highlighted below:

Safety Promise – Our promise to patients, families, and employees: Your safety is our most important priority

March 2022: A new effort to reduce the risk of firearm injury by offering free gun locks and educational resources to people receiving care for a mental health crisis is now underway at Michigan Medicine.

Three-Way Repeat Back (Communicate clearly)

February 2022: Using three-way repeat back and our Michigan Medicine Safety Phrase “That is correct,” an ophthalmic technician and clinician avoided preventable harm to a patient prior to the administration of an intraocular injection.

Numeric and Phonetic Clarification (Communicate clearly)

January 2022: Pre-op surgery staff use phonetic clarification to verify the patient’s identification. This simple tool caught an incorrect spelling of a patient’s first name which was swiftly resolved at the source – the electronic medical record.

Relationship Skills

May 2022: Listening with empathy, a surgery call center representative calmed a future patient’s anxieties. In the patient’s words, “This experience turned my day around.”

SBAR (Communicate clearly)

December 2022: A medical technologist created an SBAR to recommend a standardized process for reducing waste and lowering the chance of mislabeling lab samples. After implementation, the annual cost savings was estimated at more than $40,000. 

Validate and Verify (Questioning attitude)

March 2022: During the check-in process, a Sleep Lab tech validated and verified the patient’s name and date of birth before applying their wristband and discovered the incorrect patient’s information was printed on it and was able to swiftly correct it.

If you spot a colleague using a high reliability skill or tool at any time, send it to the HRO Team at It could be included in that month’s HRO sightings collection!

Thank you to all staff and faculty for the consistent use of our HRO skills and tools in 2022. These help us to form quality relationships with one another, communicate effectively and live out our safety promise every day.