Lean Processes and Positive Patient Experiences

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Lean Processes and Positive Patient Experiences

Posted on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

Efficiency is an obvious goal for any business or professional organization—healthcare systems notwithstanding. Yet some people in healthcare get nervous (and understandably so) when conversations shift toward streamlined or standardized processes.

After all, every patient is unique. And “standardized” hardly sounds like a friendly approach. No one ever scored high on patient experience measures by implementing a strictly regimented procedure.

But there is a way to cultivate “lean” healthcare operations, without sacrificing a patient-centered mission. Lindsey Dunn wrote about it last year. We’ve seen other industry publications tackle the subject recently, too. In the end, most pundits agree, it comes down to highlighting these three priorities:

Creative Efficiency

Being lean is about eliminating waste. And waste doesn’t just mean excess manpower or unnecessary motion. Waste can also include waiting—like the time your employees spend waiting on their end of a patient handoff, or the time your patients spend waiting to receive care.

Just about every health system is now implementing solutions to reduce waiting in lobby areas, and to optimize patient throughput. Sometimes though, patients are running into roadblocks outside facility walls. With a focus on creative efficiency, you can uncover these problems and solutions. Take your parking lot for example…

Do you know how long it takes to get from your farthest lot to your in-patient/out-patient front doors? Have you conducted any accessibility or way-finding surveys, to ensure that patients and family members can safely and reliably arrive at appointments on time?

Patient encounter times are impacted by lots of different variables. Parking factors are just a few that are often overlooked.

Flexible Efficiency

Being lean is also about creating consistency in tasks and methods, right? Yes and no. Sometimes it pays to keep your workflows fluid and case specific—especially if you have tools available that can help you manage different scenarios.

In many facilities, registration workflows could be both friendlier and more efficient. Our recent patient experience case study illustrates how flexibility—in this case, guiding patients toward the most appropriate registrar—saves time and helps to prioritize patients based on acuity. Our tool also routes patients to the ideal registrar, based on other characteristics (like language spoken or financial assistance needs).

Continuous Improvement toward a Culture of Efficiency

Dunn’s blog talks about the value of “Adaptive Design,” which means tweaking current practices in small increments, rather than overhauling an entire system in one, fell swoop. This is a smart approach to lean goals in healthcare—not only because large ships are slow to turn, but because the people best equipped to inform procedural changes are those who work directly with patients (registrars, porters, nurses, physicians, etc.). Gathering their collective input, throughout your efficiency agenda, is the only way to incorporate “lean” as a part of your culture.

We often see hospitals’ efficiency measures grow and evolve in iterative phases. It’s one of the trends that helped pilot our ActiveXCHANGE for Surgery solution—a niche extension of our broader document management tool.

Meanwhile, every RCM solution we deploy is guided by efficiency goals and local input. Here’s a truncated quote from one of our ActiveXCHANGE clients:

HealthWare has been extremely helpful, working closely with staff to improve workflow. They are also very receptive to suggestions for changes which improve our processes even more.

As we prepare for next month’s HIMSS15 event in Chicago, we’ll be interested in hearing more about these themes. Which live or on-demand sessions will you attend? Let us know if you want to swap notes!

4 Steps to Compare Healthcare Revenue Cycle Solutions

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HealthWare Systems Blog

4 Steps to Compare Healthcare Revenue Cycle Solutions

Posted on Wed, Mar 11, 2015

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of healthcare revenue cycle solutions on the market today. These technologies are designed to solve everything from insurance verification and registration accuracy, to digital order management and improved patient tracking.

But they won’t all work for your facility, your budget, or your RCM goals. Here’s a quick look at how you can screen potential revenue cycle solutions, bringing only the best candidates to your shortlist—and making the review process that much easier for your colleagues or committees.

1. Start by Networking with Healthcare Peers

Like the rest of America, you probably have a LinkedIn profile. Start using it strategically. Don’t just update your certifications or join relevant professional organizations for posterity’s sake. Instead, become an active participant. Tell people what you’re working on, what you’re reading, and which tools you recommend for specific challenges. In turn, you can ask for opinions from your peers. And although you may get some unsolicited vendor responses, they’re worth a second glance—especially if the salespeople behind them take the time to address your comments individually, with thoughtful and helpful points.

2. Attend Conferences for Patient Access and Healthcare Technology

Are you registered for NAHAM’s 2015 conference in Indianapolis? What about HFMA’s ANI 2015 event in Orlando? We tend to think of conferences as gateways to best practice sessions or panel discussions. But don’t sleep on healthcare conferences for their RCM vendor research potential. If you’re willing to engage beyond a quick intro and an exchange of SWAG, you can actually learn a lot about the companies that operate in your space. Some are clearly personable and genuine. Others are simply focused on the sale. Ultimately, these differences may be the ones that drive your decision.

3. Conduct Online Research

After gathering various recommendations and vendor materials, you’re probably in a good position to do some online research. You’ll have some names and websites in hand, and you can avoid a string of fruitless Google searches (which can be manipulated by companies with the best marketing teams, not necessarily the best products).

When you get to a candidate’s website, you’ll probably be eager to browse product features, benefits, and pricing plans. But don’t forget to ask for a list of existing clients or testimonials.  If any of the names sound familiar, you can reach out to contacts at those facilities and get the inside perspective. (Keep in mind however, the lack of a client list/testimonials may not be indicative of a poor-performing solution. Getting legal clearance to publish client names and logos is sometimes a very tall order.)

You should also make a point to browse the list of healthcare IT systems that have already been integrated with the product. You’ll want to know for example, if the platform has already been linked to your current ADT (admission, discharge, and transfer) system within EPIC, Meditech, CPSI, Cerner, McKesson, etc. If the company has experience interfacing with your IT system, the onboarding process will likely be a lot more efficient and effective.

4. Tour the Product Online

Online demonstrations or product tours are great for getting an initial look inside the platforms you’re considering. Not only can you experience the workflow as it would happen in real-time; you can see the screens and interfaces your employees would see—helping you anticipate training plans or even customization needs.

Most important, online demos can be every bit as productive as live demos, when it comes to developing executive buy-in and building engagement among your various departments. Ask if you can invite multiple stakeholders to the online demo. Chances are, both the vendors and your facility leaders will appreciate the initial walkthrough opportunity, which might save everyone the trouble of an in-person pitch.

Do you agree with these steps for screening healthcare revenue cycle solutions? Which phases would you add or remove? And which have you found to be most effective?