3 Truths of Improving Healthcare Processes and What You can do About it

Healthcare providers are in constant search of efficiency.

And not just healthcare providers, either. Every organization out there could stand to benefit from process optimization in one form or another. It’s this basic idea that led Dr. William Edwards Deming to create his legendary 14 point plan for process evaluation efficiency over 75 years ago. These principles still hold true today, with several having special significance for improving the healthcare industry.

1. Improvement Relies on Process Management

Healthcare is complex, with many considerations. Improving processes usually means creating a better system to deal with challenges. However, it’s difficult to know exactly which processes generate the most impact. The Pareto principle applies to healthcare processes, with 20 percent of processes likely doing 80 percent of the heavy lifting. Healthcare organizations must identify these lynchpin processes and prioritize their efficiency to see the maximum return for their effort.

2. Improvements are Data-Driven

It’s as true for healthcare as it is for any industry: quality improvements rely on data. Data powers our decision making, provides context for processes, and helps ensure improvements do as they were intended. No process improvement can exist without data.

3. Managing Care and Managing Physicians are not the Same

The Deming principle of managed care was once misunderstood. Managing processes of care doesn’t mean removing agency from clinicians. Physicians are an essential part of improving health processes — they must be engaged and included in the discussion. Deming referred to clinicians as the “smart cogs” of healthcare processes. Involving physicians in the improvement process gives them a voice and helps ensure their interests are represented during times of change.

With Deming’s principles at work, we can look at how clinics can prioritize quality improvements in their organizations.

  • Implement an Enterprise Data Warehouse: A system wide hub for data and information helps provide a framework for your processes. We’ve established the necessity of data — and a centralized network of information is the best way to track whether your improvements yield results.
  • Use Pareto’s Principle: With 20 percent of processes creating 80 percent of the results, healthcare providers must know which processes are most important. Resources are limited, and quality improvements won’t come from supporting care processes that have little actual impact. Analytic tools can help providers identify these variable and resource-intensive processes.
  • Involve Everyone: Clinical teams, nurses, and physicians must all be involved in the improvement process. More perspectives offer new insights into what can be improved, and the talents of various clinical teams can inform your improvements with understanding and expertise that can’t be found elsewhere.
Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization

Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.

Originally published at ibridgellc.com on March 3, 2016.

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