How to Increase Hospital Efficiency
Posted on Wed, Oct 19, 2016
As many administrators know, hospital efficiency is an elusive goal. If you were to stand in a hospital lobby and look around at the organized chaos taking place, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where to make changes in order to improve operations and reduce costs, while still maintaining a high quality of care. The task can seem overwhelming. And certainly, improving your hospital’s operational efficiency is not going to happen overnight—but it can happen.
To start, you will need to ferret out the time-wasting and money-consuming problems that are hovering just out of sight. You must begin by targeting two things: the cost of care and the quality of care.
The cost of care, of course, is an obvious focal point. Most of the health legislation passed within the last decade has been aimed at reducing the cost of quality healthcare in the U.S.—and for good reason. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), U.S. expenditures on healthcare in 2014 actually increased by 5.3 percent from the prior year, reaching $3 trillion or $9,523 per person.
Obviously something needs to be done, especially since healthcare spending accounted for 17.1 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2014, compared to 9.1 percent in the United Kingdom. In fact, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation with such high numbers in healthcare spending.
That’s the big picture. For hospital administrators, of course, the focus will be on what they can do within their own hospital to reduce costs while still providing quality healthcare. That brings us to our second area of focus: the quality of care.
Think of the aspects of your hospital where you see the most complaints and the greatest friction, both from your patients and from the hospital employees. These areas are different for every hospital, but here are a few of the more common issues:
Wait times (either for emergency or scheduled patients)
Paperwork management and tracking
Computer software operation and security
There are certainly many more areas where friction might exist—and your hospital is going to have its own unique problem areas. Locating them is essential. The reason: increasing hospital efficiency in the long run is not just about cutting costs, but also about smoothing out internal concerns that might be taking away from your overall quality of care. Focusing your energy on those areas first can help you weed out some of the major inefficiencies, so you can turn your focus back to providing the highest quality healthcare possible.
To grasp the full picture within your hospital, you’ll need to do some internal research to identify and examine your major areas of concern. Don’t be afraid to talk to staff, nurses, technicians, and volunteers, as well as providers and patients. They are involved in the day-to-day operation of the hospital as well and might have insights you hadn’t considered. In the meantime, below are some general steps you can take to increase overall hospital efficiency and start turning your hospital’s culture towards cooperation, communication, and smooth operation.
Plan Ahead. It’s especially vital to have a good scheduling and tracking system for your patients, as well as clear policies for any situations that could occur. In particular, timeliness in patient interaction has been identified in a recent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as one of the fundamental aims for providing quality healthcare. Scheduling your patients appropriately and setting up contingency plans for potential unforeseen issues so that your patient flow doesn’t get clogged up are both essential for achieving any hospital efficiency goals.
Get Rid of All the Paper. Half the world has gone paperless and it seems only the healthcare industry is lagging behind. Centralized, paperless systems are the way of the future, and hospitals will need to adjust. HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE system, for instance, removes the need for paper copies of physician orders or other documentation that normally would be dragged by the patient from one department to another. Instead, physician orders are immediately transmitted to the appropriate department, saving time and the hassle of tracking down any misplaced paperwork. HealthWare’s ActiveREG system can also reduce paperwork by turning the initial registration process paperless. Best of all, no more filing since the records are kept electronically.
Improve Internal Communication. Another vital component for hospital efficiency is keeping staff members informed about the hospital’s goals and your organization’s plan for providing quality care. For that reason, your team of providers, staff, and nurses within each department needs to maintain constant communication—which is pretty hard sometimes. The best solution is to encourage and reward cooperation. You can also facilitate communication and cooperation through technology. Making it easier for departments to work together increases the likelihood that they will. A system like HealthWare’s ActiveTRACK, for example, could provide immediate information about a patient’s location to all relevant staff, keeping everyone up-to-date, while eliminating stress and confusion. HealthWare’s ActiveCHECK system can also help you cut down on mistakes or errors that can cause interdepartmental friction. Computer programs that can help improve efficiency and centralize information are out there—and the benefits are hard to deny.
While there’s no quick fix or cure-all for your hospital efficiency woes, there are steps you can take to start moving in the right direction. Don’t let the rising cost of healthcare and the increasing burden of legislative penalties weigh you down. You have options—and the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll begin to see results.
By Ashley Choate Professional Healthcare Blog Writer