Why Optimizing Your Current Systems Can Pay Large Dividends

angela hunsberger croppedA Tough Balancing Act

By Angela Hunsberger, Senior Healthcare Consultant Hayes Management Consulting
Twitter: @HayesManagement

If you are like the majority of healthcare organizations, the past few years have consumed significant time, energy, and budgets as you strive to keep up with the multiple shifts in healthcare and implement technology to stay competitive and succeed in various initiatives. During this process you have likely digested an overwhelming amount of information regarding the technological tools that can help you meet your goals. You may have even purchased a new EHR or ancillary products, such as a patient portal, to help you achieve your goals such as meaningful use.

A tough balancing act

Leadership is faced with the difficult task of finding a balance between meeting initiatives while maintaining staff and patient satisfaction. Many organizations have purchased new technology but are only using the minimum features that will allow them to meet program thresholds. Too often staff is in survival mode learning the new tools while trying to keep up with patient productivity. Even if staff is on-board, change can still be a hard pill to swallow. And, a lot of change may have led to dissatisfaction due to unmet expectations or even an over-consumption of new workflows and technology.

Optimize current systems first

As a result, you may now have modern technology on your plate but the systems are not being used to their fullest potential. Rather than diving into the possibility of system replacements, think about an optimization first. Optimization projects begin by examining system features along with current workflows and how they all meld together (or in many cases where they don’t align). From there, teams identify best practices, perform a gap analysis and collaborate to create future workflows. The benefits are abundant including increasing time spent on direct patient care by eliminating administrative tasks for clinical staff, compliance improvements, and increases in patient safety, maximizing the cohesiveness of system integration, plus countless other benefits. One major benefit, however, is to also increase staff and provider satisfaction.

Timing is key

You may have been thinking about and want to start an optimization project, however, a full-fledged optimization may not be appropriate at this time. Successful optimization outcomes start with strategic timing. People are not always ready for the advanced features and system functionality right away. So, what can you do? As Lao Tzu said “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”. Start small and focus in on one or two ways to optimize either a workflow or system feature. Begin by listening or even taking a survey to collect the staff’s most common pain points. Review the common complaints, research solutions, and implement solutions that will have the biggest impact and increase staff satisfaction. Once people see the value of small steps, they will be more willing to work through the more difficult, larger changes.

Allow me to share a recent optimization project. Recently, at an urban clinic in Indianapolis, Indiana, the staff expressed a major pain point regarding storing patient’s insurance in the practice management system. As a federally qualified health center and a level II patient centered medical home, their needs to capture and report patient data are complex. The staff explained an issue where they were constantly playing “tug-o’-war” with the front desk and billing regarding patient’s medical and dental insurance because only one insurance could be stored in registration. This problem not only affected the billing department and front desk for medical and dental, but it also affected the integrity of the financial reporting for the entire organization. Through an optimization analysis, a sensible solution was discovered by learning and utilizing a system feature that would keep the medical and dental insurances separate. This small change led to a large organizational impact and increased staff satisfaction in many departments. Whether a small tweak or a larger analysis, optimizing your current systems and workflows should be your first step towards improving productivity and satisfaction, and realizing the value of your investment.

This article was originally published on Hayes Management Consulting and is republished here with permission.