With the healthcare industry under constant change, correctly gauging and tracking your progress is the best way to stay ahead and not fall behind. But, how does a hospital determine if its measurement and monitoring programs are accurate and up-to-date?
In this offering of Off the Shelf, we identify four problem areas and discuss some strategic tips to help your hospital realize its potential in the coming year and answer the question, are we making progress toward our goal or do we need to modify our strategy?
Plan for Success
By now your hospital should have its operational and strategic plan finalized for 2013 (assuming you operate on a fiscal year). For these plans to be successful, it is important that your organization properly develop measures to check your progress towards your stated goals. Having effective measurement tools in place can alert your hospital of when you may need to alter your strategy to effectively achieve your goals. Four areas with the most metric mistakes are:
It is important to understand where your department(s) currently stands in relation to making profits and/or losing revenue. With a precise understanding, you can pinpoint the specific opportunity areas and determine a strategy for improvement. Furthermore, conducting a margin analysis periodically throughout the year can help you realize the strategies that worked in top–performing areas and alert you of low-performing areas, which signal a need to review your plans and make adjustments.
- All departments are not created equal when it comes to a margin analysis. Measuring key revenue producing departments in more detail is vital (e.g. by service line in surgical services)
- It can be challenging to define acceptable variations in the margin for seasonality and departments. Also, implementing financial metrics in clinical and support departments can be culturally difficult
- Set marginal targets that are adjustable based on seasonality and variance throughout the year with a mid-year reality check to ensure accuracy. Establishing realistic targets is also important and this may mean that cost centers (e.g. EVS) have an acceptable overhead percentage inline with budget
Utilizing standardized surveys from patients and their families to assess the patient experience is another way of monitoring performance against nationwide standards. Patient education, continuity of care, and empowerment are currently a center of focus due to Accountable Care. These surveys can pinpoint specific areas that need to be improved based on your patients’ experience within the hospital.
- With an increased focus on patient satisfaction your organization should not rely solely on third-party surveying systems to understand the patient experience
- Determining what warrants a separate review that is not included in existing surveys by third parties
- Utilize local market research to determine important factors in your local areas (Don't do market research? You should start as it can be customized to any size department/facility and any budget.) This research is typically qualitative and should involve focus groups, phone surveys, or one-on-one interviews with patients or referring physicians to determine what influences their decisions the most
Coordination of Care
By improving hospital efficiencies, you have the potential to decrease LOS, increase patient satisfaction, and prevent hospital readmissions. While a complete overhaul of care coordination takes time, there are smaller-scale activities a hospital can enact to start making improvements now.
- Start with the basics before undertaking a hospital-wide initiative
- Establish detailed checklists between providers
- Review/revise policies and procedures
- Conduct routine audits
- Implement specific/concise transfer and discharge order processes
- The scope of care coordination can be a daunting undertaking especially when viewed through the lens of Accountable Care
- Determine your current “choke points” within the facility or department and address those first. This may mean increasing the role/presence of case management in key areas, establishing working groups among providers, and introducing new procedures for patient “hand off”
Standardizing your own statistical information can help assess your hospital’s performance against its personal targets and determine areas of opportunity. The task of gathering unique data can seem daunting and costly, but if done accurately utilizing valid methodologies the results can prove to be invaluable to the hospital’s strategic and operational plans.
- Limiting the scope of your statistical analyses is important for continued success. Ask yourself if the measure is a vital driver for revenue, efficiency, or patient safety
- Establish an easy or automated methodology for custom metrics and creating accurate benchmarks/goals can be difficult
- Utilize a third-party without a personal interest in the outcome to develop and/or audit your measures. The third-party could be from another department, corporate, or an outside consulting firm
Need assistance in your hospital or department? Know you have issues, but not sure where to start? Contact Us