The want to be better or to improve is within all of us. We even have the best intentions to do this when we do things like make New Years’ resolutions, start a new workout regimen, or buy a new organizational app or calendar that will change our normal behavioral patterns to something we strive to be. The good intentions only carry us so far and then life tends to get in the way. Good intentions will get you nowhere when you are trying to change something as large and with as many moving pieces as a healthcare system. When finding outcomes improvement strategies in healthcare it is necessary to transform the system rather than hoping everything will fall into place.
Outcomes improvement strategies are collaborative measures that have specific goals in mind. Obviously it would be amazing if everyone that needed medical attention was able to be saved or made better, but the reality is that passing on is part of the cycle of life. This doesn’t mean that there are circumstances where protocols weren’t enough or that bureaucracy got in the way and a patient was put through undue stress. Setting aside most catastrophic situations, inefficiencies and waste seem to be the biggest culprits of poor patient satisfaction and shoty quality.
Much improvement has been seen with the implementation and utilization of EHR (electronic health record) system. All medical information is now stored in a digital form, including x-rays, CAT scans, doctors’ notes, and medications. In this form, it is no longer necessary to manually take information from one doctor or specialist to another. This also makes it possible to avoid double testing, prescription abuse and lost records.
Another strategy that has taken hold is electronic communications. Now, this may sound kind of funny because most of us have been using email, text and instant messaging for years, but the healthcare industry has finally stepped into the new age and found out how much time and resources something like this can save. For example, there are times when we have a simple question about a rash or because we feel slightly under the weather, but not necessarily enough to want to go into a doctor’s office. With a few clicks and a quick description of what’s going on, you can have answers within a few hours, or sooner, and not have to leave the comfort of your home or routine of your work.
From the inside looking out of a healthcare organization, inefficiencies, waste of resources and poor patient outcomes are always looming issues. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has made it a priority to help all healthcare facilities to become more optimized by creating the Triple Aim framework. These are three points of focus that should be happening all at once, which in turn benefits both patients and professionals. These focuses are:
- Improvement to the overall patient care experience
- Improvement to the health of the immediate population
- Reduction in the cost of healthcare
When a healthcare organization can put all three of these approaches into practice, there is a move towards bettering the people in the community, taking care of each patient as a valuable individual and reducing or eliminating wasteful spending, which add up to a well-rounded healthcare provider.
Some of these items may feel like they are only good intentions with a little bit of action to them, however, there is always the data to fall back on. Truly, it isn’t just something to fall back on, but it is foundational and fundamental to each organization and it is being collected every day. Data is where are the answers and even some of the questions that haven’t been asked yet lie. Healthcare data analytics takes the data that is being stored and does something extraordinary with it: turns it into data- and fact-driven decisions. Within a system as complex as healthcare, you cannot rely on gut guesses or follow the example of another organization, but instead should be figuring out where problematic areas are, where quality is failing or where protocol isn’t sufficient.
This may sound like the magic pill to correct everything, but in fact it may be a peek into Pandora’s box; one problem leads to a host of other challenges and inefficiencies that had previously gone unnoticed. Not to worry, everything doesn’t need to be solved all at once, and some solutions will have far reaching effects to influence and aid other areas or departments. Many organizations start with the most grievous matters and move from there. Other organizations pick an area of concern within the community, such as excessive pre-term and C-section delivery babies. By helping to educate mothers and then helping doctors not to jump so quickly into the C-section option for birth, other departments can benefit, and mother may also have a better birthing experience.
Overall, the outcomes improvement strategies in healthcare do not have to be complicated but require much more than good intentions from all involved. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry hasn’t taken advantage of many technological and other advances like many other industries, but they are beginning to implement changes slowly and surely. As these advances are going to make a difference in the quality of care received, and truly help with improvements for everyone involved.