Winning Over Hospital Leadership: 4 Tips to Gain Executive Buy-In

The most effective, evidence-based infection control strategies won’t improve patient safety at your hospital if your executives aren’t on board.

Without executive buy-in, you’ll have a tough time launching (and sustaining) a new infection prevention initiative. It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve spent researching the initiative or testing innovative tools and technology. If you can’t make a compelling case to hospital leadership, they’re unlikely to support your idea or allot the necessary resources to your initiative. 

These four tips can help you win over hospital leadership and gain executive buy-in:

1. Make a financial case

Hospital executives are responsible for the fiscal health of their institutions. Yes, they care about patient safety and satisfaction, but they must also understand the financial cost and impact of all approved initiatives. They must judiciously invest the hospital’s limited resources.

As an infection preventionist, you certainly understand the physical (and emotional) toll of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). You know that HAIs may cause discomfort and trigger complications; you also know that HAIs increase length-of-stay. 

If you want hospital leadership to support a new HAI-prevention initiative, you need to quantify the fiscal impact of HAIs. Pointing out that treating just 16 HAIs (a low number, given that 1 in 31 hospital patients has a HAI, according to the CDC) can cost a hospital more than half a million dollars is one way to help hospital executives understand the impact that infections have on a hospital’s bottom line. 

Hospital leaders are much more likely to support initiatives that have a positive return on investment. Directly address their concerns about upfront costs with data demonstrating that net gain is extremely useful. You may want to highlight research from Stanford Hospital which shows that preventing one HAI can increase hospital profits by more than $685,000. 

2. Highlight additional benefits

Your focus is infection prevention. While that’s also a shared goal — no one, after all, wants infections to spread — it’s important to remember that other hospital departments also have unique, interrelated goals. If you can demonstrate how your initiative will benefit other departments, you can gain allies — and are more likely to get executive buy-in.

First, think about the ways your proposal will impact others. Will it create additional demands or headaches for them? Might a proposed new tool have features that may be useful to colleagues in another department? Does your idea address issues that other departments are concerned with as well? 

Discussing your initiative with colleagues can help you discover detailed answers to those questions and build relationships. That’s important because the “key to getting buy-in from your peers is trust,” according to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, and identifying and working through colleagues’ concerns prior to approaching leadership can save you time in the long run.

3. Share testimonials and case studies

Hospital executives want some proof that your proposed initiative will indeed have a positive impact. Very few leaders are eager to invest significant resources into a promising but unproven program. 

Look for real-life examples, testimonials, and case studies. Talk with other infection preventionists who are already using the program or tool you’re proposing; many are very willing to share data demonstrating impact and cost. Published data, including white papers and research studies (if available), are also extremely helpful. 

If you can’t find compelling research or case studies – perhaps because the idea is so new or hasn’t yet been tested in a hospital like yours – consider conducting a small pilot study at your institution before approaching administration and asking for a large investment. 

4. Connect to organizational priorities

If you “align your initiative with broader organizational strategic priorities,” you increase your chances of achieving organizational support.

According to a 2023 Hospital Executive Priorities survey, the top three CEO/COO priorities right now are nurse recruitment, quality of care and patient safety, and staff retention. Hospital leaders are eager to hear from people who have promising ideas to address any of those issues. 

Study your hospital’s mission statement and latest strategic plan. How does your idea advance leadership’s stated priorities? Remember: an organization’s strategic focus changes over time as the needs of the community evolve. Pitch your idea when you can demonstrate alignment with strategic priorities. 

Working to win-over hospital leadership will help you attain the support and resources you need to effect positive change.