Sound processes are essential to the success of any business. This is even more important in healthcare, where the ever-changing environment makes process improvement vital in order for a practice to prosper.
Medical practices today must avoid the pitfalls of complacency, and consistently evaluate internal workflows to identify inefficiencies. There is a positive outcome to be gained if you are willing to challenge the status quo. Often, the organizations that understand this concept and are willing to invest in resources, like staff training or outside expertise, are the businesses that thrive amid the constant flux that occurs in the healthcare industry. The beauty of process improvement lies in the constant re-assessment of the changes we make on our way to achieving our goal.
Asking questions can be a great place to begin process improvement. Are our patients satisfied with our services? Can we reduce backend billing errors with modifications to our front desk routines? Which obstacles are causing delays as we prepare patients for surgery? Why are our providers frustrated with the EMR? Are we taking advantage of all of the automation capabilities through our clinical software? Sometimes, even the simplest questions like, “why do we do it this way?” can be the best place to start.
Implementing tools like flowcharting and the waste-eliminating principles of the Lean Six Sigma methodology can be helpful in identifying opportunities for fine-tuning. Additionally, trial runs and limiting organization-wide changes to pilot programs within smaller departments can also help you reach your goal.
However, as you focus on process improvement, be mindful to resist a tunnel-like approach. Honing in on the individual steps within a workflow without regard for the people behind each step can hinder your progress. Effective processes cannot exist without willing participation from knowledgeable personnel. Therefore, buy-in from your employees is crucial to running an efficient operation.
The following strategy may be helpful as you approach process improvement:
With breakthroughs in technology like artificial intelligence, many healthcare professionals believe we are on the verge of a new era in the industry. Regardless of which changes are on the horizon, it is certain that change is inevitable, and process improvement will remain an essential tool for medical practices seeking to thrive.
Stewart Garner is a Healthcare Consultant with Kassouf & Co., P.C.
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