Running your community hospital efficiently is more important than ever. Reimbursement is going down and regulatory expenses are creeping up.
To see more patients, deliver quality care and maintain a healthy business, your IT systems and processes must be strategic and aligned to patient value. They must preserve revenue, shorten cycles and positively influence physician retention.
Here’s the medicine, with no sugar: effective, valuable IT never boils down to a miracle technology or cure-all process.
To make your IT valuable and achieve business goals, make these eight process and technology changes soon.
1) Embrace Lean Healthcare
First, adopt a lean healthcare model that aligns all of your technology and processes toward a common goal: the patient experience.
Lean methodology is important throughout healthcare, but vital for community hospitals. As reimbursements go down and regulations crop up, the margin of error for a community hospital grows razor thin.
By emphasizing the role of patient value and building strategies around it, lean helps hospitals produce measurable results and make better business decisions, improving revenue.
Your community hospital should apply lean principles to increase clinician time with patients, remove workflow impediments and shorten revenue cycles wherever possible.
2) Standardize Processes (And Minimize Exceptions)
To fully embrace a lean healthcare model, your hospital must standardize processes, educate users on best practices and stop making exceptions for certain users (unless absolutely necessary).
For example, your EHR might include a physician portal with patient test results. If a physician ignores the portal and requests lab results be printed, ready and waiting for him, your entire process slows down, productivity is lost and hospital revenue suffers.
3) Eliminate Unnecessary, Costly Steps
Finding and eliminating waste is another key principle of lean healthcare. Figure out where unnecessary roadblocks are hurting operations. If you can remove a step in a process and still achieve the necessary results, that extra step is just slowing you down and costing you money.
One approach that helps streamline processes: striving for a “single click” to accomplish tasks, only adding steps as necessary.
You’re probably thinking: “We can’t possibly accomplish all tasks in a single click!” But starting there and working backward helps you eliminate unnecessary steps and improve organizational productivity, giving clinicians more time to focus on patients and cultivate a healthy business.
4) Use Systems To Schedule Resources Strategically
Your hospital’s IT is a resource-scheduling powerhouse. Learn to tap its potential and reduce inefficiencies that hit you square in the financials.
To start, set up processes that allow clinicians to obtain necessary authorizations before a patient even presents. Doing so alleviates painful patient flow bottlenecks and minimizes re-scheduling (and potentially, lost patients), making your hospital’s revenue stream more secure in the process.
5) Improve Materials Management Processes
If you aren’t purchasing supplies and materials at the best possible price and optimizing their use, your community hospital is burning cash.
Use your hospital’s IT systems to extract historical data about your materials, costs and use. Understand your materials management in granular detail, then negotiate better contracts with vendors based on your hospital’s analytics.
6) Identify And Destroy Department Silos
When a hospital’s IT system is built effectively, every step of every process is dependent on the previous step. If you want to shorten revenue cycles, make sure information isn’t getting blocked at any one point.
The best way to achieve this? Create “process owners:” IT super-users that know your systems and processes inside and out. Make them responsible for preserving the flow of information across departments. Appoint a process owner in every department or unit and have each owner train other staff to measurable results.
7) Don’t Digitize Bad Processes
Don’t sabotage your hospital IT by attempting to “digitize” an inefficient process. Automating an ineffective protocol won’t magically make it viable. Before you migrate a process to your hospital’s IT systems, analyze it through a broader, patient value lens. Anticipate potential workarounds and ensure the process itself is strong before you make it part of your IT plan.
For example, you might implement new systems that significantly speed up patient Medicare processing, only to discover users needlessly splitting the task. One user is assigned to A-G, another to H-L and so on, even though a single user could manage the entire task in as much time. If you asked these users why, the answer would be fairly predictable: “Because it’s always been done this way!”
8) Don’t Stop 5 Yards From Goal
The best approach to community hospital IT typically involves optimizing existing systems to maximize value and minimize spend.
That said, avoid selling your hospital’s IT short by stopping five yards from the goal line. If you’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new EHR, seriously consider spending another $10,000 with a quality interface consultant to make sure your interface is intelligently designed, improve interoperability and help shorten revenue cycles.
Don’t assume that your large spend includes every possible module you might need to streamline workflow. Research your options, assess your needs and create your budget accordingly. That might mean spending more in the short term, but if you’ve assessed your needs accurately and researched your options effectively, the benefits of that spend could be significant.
An IT approach that helps establish and support sound processes, uses technology effectively and facilitates intelligent data collection leads to better business decision-making, plain and simple.
Start making these process and technology changes today. You can’t afford to wait.