The quality of healthcare in the U.S. is at the center of a raging debate shaping the future of the industry. With a total annual expenditure of almost $3 trillion, the healthcare industry should be providing better outcomes than it currently produces. A recent Commonwealth Fund study found that the U.S. ranked last among eleven developed nations—including New Zealand and Canada—in healthcare quality. Behind this poor showing are the common culprits like criminal waste and inefficiency, bloated government agencies and medical groups, and poorly implemented public policies. These issues can be overwhelming in their scope, but taken at the institutional or departmental level, they can be much more manageable. Optimal Process Management Healthcare is inherently a team process with physicians orchestrating a number of professionals, while also adhering to policies set at the administrative, industry and governmental levels. The multitude of factors that come into play in most treatment procedures makes healthcare a complex process. If everything doesn’t go accordingly, the results could be detrimental. The key to optimizing these healthcare process outcomes is analyzing the links in the chain and identifying potential failure points. It is essential that analytics be applied to each of these discrete processes and determine how they can fail, and if so how that can affect processes downstream. In most cases, only a small minority of these individual processes have a significant impact upon the outcome; it is therefore incumbent upon managers to identify the most important procedures and apply the vast majority of available resources to ensuring their success. Clinical Practice Improvement While healthcare may be a complex system, at its barest essentials it is a caregiver interacting with an ailing patient. This point of contact has the potential for errors, but the physicians, nurses and healthcare extenders are almost always more cognizant and diligent about providing optimal care than almost any others in the system. In a recent study in the British Medical Journal, it was found that the quality of clinical care improved sharply in environments where clinicians took a leadership role in creating high quality environments. Medical professionals who took the initiative in implementing high standards of care like monitoring and indicator analysis, as well as effectively communicating these issues with management, promoted a high level of care delivery. The Importance of Evidence-Based Practices The process of improving quality should be a constant one. Organizations which prioritize improving the level of care are constantly evaluating internal and external processes to learn how their system can be optimized. At the heart of this process is the constant integration of successful, evidence-based practices. These proven techniques may apply to the clinical or administrative level, but should be investigated, tested internally and then implemented. These practices may come from a variety of sources including industry consultants, employees, medical literature, or governmental supervisors, but if they are applicable then they should be utilized as soon as possible despite the often high initial cost and integration barriers. Care Quality Benefits Enhancing patient outcomes are immensely beneficial to a medical organization. Not only will this contribute to a more appealing reputation which can attract highly qualified medical professionals as well as discriminating patients, but it also cultivates greater professional satisfaction and higher workforce morale. This environment of success encourages employees to maintain higher professional performance standards. Ultimately, the success of a healthcare organization is dependent upon these individual performances.
Written by: Robert Moghim, M.D., CEO- Moghim Medical Consulting Inc.