Developing Efficient Processes to foster Healthcare Success

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Developing Efficient Processes to foster Healthcare Success

The healthcare industry is facing several challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic—the great resignation of the workforce, the impact of changes in regulations, and the limited access to care for many vulnerable populations. Today, many healthcare organizations do not have the modern technology, optimized processes, or the capacity to retool to meet the needs of this new age. Healthcare processes are key to quality actions and outcomes across the care delivery continuum. In addition, technology is being positioned at the center of client engagement, especially as many clients are relying on handheld devices to communicate with their clinicians.
The solution? Process improvement. This article demonstrates that process re-engineering is a key component for transforming the healthcare industry.

What does this mean?

Process improvement is an essential part of improving patient outcomes and simultaneously lowering costs in any industry. This can be done by identifying efficiency gaps in the existing processes by assessing the current state against desired future—which should be aligned with the organization’s priorities. Additionally, a manager’s responsibility is to build/change processes to close the gaps, monitor the result of these changes, and tweak as necessary to achieve the intended objectives.
Healthcare professionals have been using tools like Six Sigma for years now, but it’s only recently that we’ve seen an increase in its use within the healthcare industry—maybe this is being influenced by the widescale introduction to the value-based care model. Process improvement and optimization are inextricably related to better results and lower costs.

The roles of strategy, skillset and competency, culture, and sophisticated analytics in a healthcare organization’s ongoing readiness and transformation cannot be overstated. Below, we have outlined eight steps to nurture and optimize the processes in the healthcare organization.

8 Steps for Managing an Efficient Health Care Organization:

Step 1: Develop a shared vision for process improvement
Step 2: Establish a shared understanding of process metrics
Step 3: Create a common language for the process improvement
Step 4: Engage and train employees in the shared vision
Step 5: Build employee’s knowledge and capabilities to advance the program
Step 6: Leverage technology to improve data capture and analysis
Step 7: Generate data to assess the level of success of the program
Step 8: Use analytics to support continuous improvement

Step 1: Develop a shared vision for process improvement


A shared vision is a clear statement of what you want, why it’s important, and how you plan to accomplish it. It’s a good idea to start by identifying the most important business problems that your process is trying to solve for your organization. Then consider what the ideal outcome would look like in each case. Your team needs to be aligned with the goals of your improvement process. This means that everyone understands what changes need to be made and why those changes will help them do their jobs better—and it also means that they understand how their part in the process fits into the bigger picture.
You can accomplish this by clearly identifying what success looks like at each step, and then creating a plan for reaching those goals. It’s also important to understand what success looks like for your organization as a whole. This means looking at the company from different angles, such as customer satisfaction, employee retention rates, and productivity levels. A process improvement project is useless if it doesn’t lead to better outcomes in these areas—and it can even be harmful if it leads to negative consequences that outweigh any benefits you might have achieved.

Step 2: Establish a shared understanding of process metrics


Process metrics are measurements of how well we’re doing what we set out to do. They can be quantitative or qualitative; examples include cycle time, lead time, and throughput. The goal is to use these metrics to understand how our process works so that we can improve it. When we have a shared understanding of the goals, processes, and metrics in place, then everyone understands what they need to be measuring and why it matters. Process metrics are measures of how well your process is working.
They can be specific to each step in the process, or they can be more broad-based indicators of how well your project is doing overall. For example, you might have a measure that tracks the amount of time it takes from when work enters a queue until it’s completed. Or perhaps you want to know how long it takes for someone to make a decision about whether or not something is ready for release.

Step 3: Create a common language for the process improvement


Process improvement is not a matter of simply taking a process and making it better. Instead, it’s about creating a common language for defining, measuring, and improving processes. The first step to building a common language is to define what it is we mean by a process.
The best way to do this is through the 5-why method, which helps us understand why something happens by asking “Why?” five times in succession. For example, we can ask “Why did the process fail?” to get an answer like “The tool didn’t work.” The next question would be “Why didn’t it work?” and get an answer like “There was a bug in the code.”
We continue asking why until we reach a point where there is no more reason for failure—or at least no more reasons that we can identify on our own without help from those who understand how things really work. This process can be very useful for understanding why a problem occurred, but it’s not always effective.

Sometimes we need to take a different approach and ask “What are the symptoms?” The word symptom means something that indicates an underlying problem, so this question helps us identify what is actually happening in our system without getting bogged down by details. You can also ask why from the opposite direction, starting with a goal and moving backward. For example, if our goal is to ship a product on time, we can ask how the workflows through each step of the process and why it takes as long as it does.

Step 4: Engage and train employees in the shared vision


Process improvement is a team sport. The more people who are engaged in the process, the better it will be. You’ll want your employees to take an active role in identifying problems and developing solutions. Engaging employees in process improvement is important in ensuring that they take ownership of the new system. This can be done through training sessions, which should be as interactive as possible so that participants have a chance to ask questions and offer their own suggestions.
It’s also important for managers to encourage employees to talk about what works well with current processes and how those might be incorporated into any improvements they make. Finally, it’s important to keep an open mind when initiating any process improvement program. You may have a specific idea of how things should work, but your employees are likely to have different ideas—and they may be right! It’s important to listen to their input and take steps toward incorporating their suggestions into the new process.

Step 5: Build employee’s knowledge and capabilities to advance the program


Process improvements can be an important part of any organization’s strategy. However, they can also be difficult to implement successfully. It’s important to take the time to do it right, starting with building the right capabilities in your employees. One way to do this is by training them in the tools and techniques that are most effective for process improvement projects. Build capabilities through your training program.
By building a culture of continuous improvement in the organization and encouraging employees to think about how they might improve work processes on their own, you’re setting them up with the skills and knowledge they need to make improvements on their own. When employees know that process changes are welcome and encouraged, they’ll be more likely to suggest improvements when they see a better way of doing things—and this helps keep your organization agile as well as efficient.

Step 6: Leverage technology to improve data capture and analysis


Technology can help to improve processes in many ways. For example, it can help with data collection, analysis and reporting; identify opportunities for improvement; provide information on the variation between practices; improve communication between staff and patients, and enable better patient interactions. Technology can also help with workflow mapping so that staff knows how their work fits into the overall system.

Step 7: Generate data to assess the level of success of the program


Data is a key input for improving processes. For example, it can help identify the best ways to collect and analyze information; identify where improvements are needed; measure outcomes; and benchmark practices against others. As a rule, the more data you can gather and analyze, the better. Data should be gathered from all relevant sources – including medical records, laboratory results, and clinical outcomes – and it can be used to create dashboards of key metrics. This will enable staff to see how their practice compares with others in terms of quality of care, efficiency, and other measures.

Step 8: Use analytics to support continuous improvement


Analytics is a great way to help your organization perform continuous improvement. By looking at your data, you can see where improvements are needed and develop a strategy for addressing them.

For example, if your company has sales goals that aren’t being met, analytics can help you determine which areas of the sales process need attention—and provide recommendations for what improvements should be made. In addition to helping improve on-the-job performance across all areas of business operations, analytics also provides valuable insight into how effective training programs are working in practice. By measuring how well employees are learning new skills and applying them in their day-to-day work lives, you can identify what types of training strategies work best for different people.
One of the biggest challenges in a business environment is having enough data to support your decisions. You may have a lot of data, but do you know what it means? Do you have the tools and expertise to analyze it effectively? If not, then investing in analytics could be one way to improve your ability to make good decisions about improving processes.

Conclusion

No doubt, Processes are the way things happen in healthcare. They drive actions, outcomes, and financial performance across the health system. Maximizing process quality, which is swiftly becoming more significant as a driver of care delivery and organizational performance in uncertain times, will enhance the success of any healthcare organization.

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