Process Improvements in Healthcare

Process improvement is an ongoing practice in the healthcare industry and there continues to be a new breakthrough in the topic. Process Improvement in Healthcare can result in increased patient satisfaction, more efficient care, better population health, development of the skill of employees in all levels of a healthcare organization, reduced cost of care and an all-around increase in productivity. In other words, Process Improvement is a proactive well thought our task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing business process within an organization for optimization and to meet new standards of quality and quotas. With Process improvement, there are different approaches to be considered but it often involves a systematic approach which follows a specific methodology. Many industries and organizations devote a huge chunk of their strategic plan to process improvement. Some examples are benchmarking or lean manufacturing, each of which focuses on different areas of improvement and uses different methods to achieve the best results in the manufacturing industry. Processes can either be modified or complemented with subprocesses or even eliminated for the ultimate goal of improvement.

So really, quality improvement is a science of process management.

When the approach to modern quality improvement was developed about 75 years ago, they were basically developing a way for modern organizations to deal with the complex challenges that were confronting them. The approach they developed to improvement was remarkably simple, yet extraordinarily powerful. It’s centered on the fact that quality improvement is really about process management. These quality improvement concepts and techniques have been used to transform almost every major industry in the world with dramatic results. The last holdouts, the last passions of resistance, are primarily healthcare, higher education, and government. Now, it’s happening to healthcare. I believe higher education is imminent; it’s anyone’s guess whether the government will ever succumb to these forces.

Now, we all know healthcare and the healthcare industry is very complex, but it’s really not fundamentally different from other industries. Healthcare is really made up simply of thousands of interlinked processes that result in a very complex system. If we focus on the processes of care one at a time, we can fundamentally change the game and deal with the challenges facing healthcare. Now, this may seem like a tall order, but Pareto’s principle tells us that there are probably 20% of those processes that will get us 80% of the impact. So the challenge of every organization is to identify that 20%, roll up their sleeves, and begin the important work of addressing those challenges.

In process improvement, there is one fundamental principle to follow: If you cannot measure it…You cannot improve it.

Deming clearly understood the importance of data. Meaningful quality improvement must be data-driven. This is particularly true in healthcare. You’re basically dead in the water if you try to work with healthcare providers and you don’t have good data. If quality improvement is going to work in healthcare, if we are going to realize value, it means we have to engage clinicians. To use Deming’s term, clinicians are healthcare’s so-called “smart cogs.” They are the frontline workers who understand and own the processes of care. And as I said in an earlier slide, we’re very fortunate in healthcare because we have a workforce dominated by clinicians who are extraordinarily committed, very intelligent, and highly educated. So, how do we reconcile these qualities with the data available and the software available to process it? I believe we need to help clinicians figure out how to give up the past by helping them see a new future and help them understand their role in creating and sustaining that new future. In fact, I believe one can make a very strong case that the future will be very empowering for clinicians of all types if we can successfully inform them, engage them, and inspire them.