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Taking Care of (Healthcare) Business

Taking Care of (Healthcare) Business

Doing more with less. Taking customer experience seriously. Considering automation alternatives to common problems. Building strong leadership skills.

These aren’t just some of the trending topics in the business world today, they’re also becoming increasingly relevant to healthcare organizations. By implementing some best practices from the business world, healthcare leaders are starting to realize new efficiencies and ideas for radically changing their practices.

Here are three business-minded strategies that you may find helpful within your own organization.

Lean Six Sigma

As providers attempt to reduce costs by reducing the size of their staffs, some healthcare organizations are turning to Lean Six Sigma strategies to improve efficiency.

Lean Six Sigma is a business strategy that helps organizations reduce waste in physical resources, effort, talent, and time, while also improving quality and organizational processes. Adapted to healthcare, this concept can be used to evaluate everything from patient admission and discharge procedures to billing processes and even placement of equipment.

Kimberly Watson Hemphill, the CEO of Firefly Consulting (which specializes in Lean Six Sigma strategies), said in a recent article published in HealthcareDive (http://www.healthcaredive.com/news/7-strategies-for-making-the-most-of-a-lean-workforce/423274/) that many healthcare organizations are already seeing the benefits of these tactics. One of which is a hospital that was able to reduce the turnover time in the operating room for hip and knee replacements from 90 minutes to under 30 minutes.

“That made the rooms available for additional operational procedures each day, meaning more patients could receive treatment more quickly,” Watson Hemphill said.

Design Thinking

The idea of proper workflow — both of physical space and of processes and procedures — is especially important. The concept of design thinking encourages unique strategies for achieving better workflow, including conventional and not-so-conventional ideas.

In a recent article published in Becker’s Hospital Review (http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/patient-flow/how-strategic-design-delivers-patient-centered-healthcare-and-metrics-that-matter.html), Giang Vu, the principal of strategic design for healthcare transformation services at Philips, writes that getting outside-the-box in workflow is becoming critical to improving the all-important metric of patient satisfaction.

Vu cites the recent transformation of the Broward Health Medical Center’s infusion facility as an example.

“(BHMC) struggled with patient flow and a dated facility layout and aesthetics as well as other operational inefficiencies in its infusion center,” Vu writes. “BHMC wanted to transform the patient care experience and improve staff efficiency while modernizing its environment to better compete in the highly competitive market for oncology care.”

Working with a consultant, the facility reviewed a typical patient’s journey and identified points of concern. It interviewed patients and conducted a thorough data analysis. From that information, an “experience flow map” was created and used as the framework for the actual physical redesign of the space.

And the results were remarkable.

“BHMC recorded 100 percent patient satisfaction scores immediately after opening a newly designed service area,” Vu writes. “(Its) innovative redesign has created an enriched patient and staff experience, a higher quality of care and increased operational efficiency.”

Leadership Strategies

As part of leading a healthcare practice, building leadership skills is becoming increasingly important.

An article recently published in strategy+business cites “ritual questions” as a key to helping leaders reflect each day on what they have learned.

“Ritual questions give your brain time to process the torrent of data you encounter every day,” writes Eric J. McNulty, the director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (http://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Ritual-Questions-Help-Inform-Effective-Leaders?gko=6c369). “Taking time to reflect can feel uncomfortable, but once you push past the fear of not being busy and realize the benefits of a deeper level of thinking, you can linger longer on these questions.”

McNulty suggests four ritual questions that he has found to be most useful:

“What encounter did I handle particularly well today and why?”

  • “What encounter do I believe the other person in the exchange thinks I handled well and why?”
  • “What encounter did I handle poorly today and why?”
  • “What encounter do I believe the other person in the exchange thinks I handled poorly and why?”

And while the idea of reflection isn’t healthcare-specific, it was deemed relevant enough that Becker’s Hospital Review (http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/5-questions-leaders-should-ask-themselves-daily.html) cited McNulty’s article in a recent post, and included a fifth question: “What do we know today that we didn’t know yesterday?”

So, while healthcare organizations are working to become leaner and more efficient, it may be time to look to the business world for examples on how to think through new challenges and processes.