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!