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Advisory Panel: Three Hospital Improvement Actions

October 14, 2013 Advisory Panel 1 Comment

The HIStalk Advisory Panel is a group of hospital CIOs, hospital CMIOs, practicing physicians, and a few vendor executives who have volunteered to provide their thoughts on topical industry issues. I’ll seek their input every month or so on an important news developments and also ask the non-vendor members about their recent experience with vendors. E-mail me to suggest an issue for their consideration.

If you work for a hospital or practice, you are welcome to join the panel. I am grateful to the HIStalk Advisory Panel members for their help in making HIStalk better.

This question this time: What three actions would most improve your hospital overall and how could IT contribute to those changes?


Better understand our variances in high cost procedures. Analytics can help in finding variances and understanding why they happen and then we can work on fixing those problems. Manage high-risk patients better. IT can be used to identify (predictive modeling) and track (registry) these patients, but people will make the difference in helping them. Understand our patients better. IT could be used for better surveying of patients both in real time and retrospectively


Hospitals need to start by realizing that their days of glory are gone and that healthcare is no longer hospital centric and need to regroup. Need to start applying "lean" principles and look for ways to cut cost but not compromise care, which is indeed a balancing act. Invite and involve all the stakeholders in and have a mission statement. Admit that "all healthcare is local" and that certain rules apply in certain markets but are not valid in others where the consolidation is not so pervasive.  Realize once and for all the role of clinicians whose decisions and behavior we are trying to influence and change and  groom real leaders who are in it for the good of the community and not merely to embellish their resumes. Improve communication all the way from the CIO and C-suite to the practicing MD and nurse who are " where the rubber meets the road". It has been my experience that the larger the organization, the more broken the communication and the more bureaucratic the process. IT can do exactly that — improve communication and transitions of care.


Enhance value (improving quality and reducing cost) – IT focused on data analytics to produce actionable descriptions of current conditions and to support experiments planned to move us toward our targets. Wow our patients and families (great service experiences) – right now we’re focused on providing patient portal access. Innovation and partnerships (new models of caring) – deploying and operationalizing health info exchange.


There are three major factors that will determine the viability of hospitals over the next five years that IT has the capability to improve. First and foremost, we absolutely have to reduce the cost of care. Clearly, one of the main ways to accomplish this is through better coordination among providers as well as better clinical decision support mechanisms to reduce unnecessary tests. This is more than just duplicate checking — it is now quickly moving to personalized medicine using the more rapidly available genomic and proteomic information available for patients. Secondly, we must provide better interoperability and analytics for population health between multiple disparate providers of care. We are moving to a model of care where the primary care physician becomes the gatekeeper and we have to be able to communicate in real time the status of every patient and their disease states. This high level of coordination will only be possible with a significant IT support model. Thirdly, we have to optimize our ability to capture charges with payers who still pay in that manner. The list of those payers will continue to shrink, but we need to take advantage while we can. That also includes the ability to capture activity, especially on those newly insured patients that will be creates as a result of the Accountable Care Act.


A few more hours in a day, and a week would be great! Improved collaboration around significant challenges is adversely affected by a lack of time and ability to focus on priorities. Effective use of video technologies might help, but folks are so busy it’s hard to know what can help. Creating a culture of appreciation and not just recognition. Hard to do – perhaps better use of social networking tools? Better financial performance….. if we could drive value from all of our technology investments and truly ensure that we are using 100 percent of everything we deploy and get value from all of it.


Patient safety: better clinical decision support. Patient care: better order sets and workflows. Patient engagement: in-house use of Epic Bedside.


If you are looking for the most bang for your buck in changing the hospital, it would start with the most important determinants of hospital outcome (RNs) and patient satisfaction (CNAs). It is clear to me  but hard to prove that a well-trained RN staff improves outcomes, but a good outcome, at least in the sense of following guidelines and providing consistent, checklist driven care, is now the expectation. Patient satisfaction is proportional to the number and the friendliness of the staff that deals with the personal needs of patients (toiletting, call lights). IT can help with efficient one-click charting, and clinical decision support for the RNs. We should spend a lot of our optimization time on the RN workflow. On the CNA side, a Vocera type solution that allows direct communication to a CNA as well as combining a group into a lift team will speed up response. Oh, and relax the "no personal calls" rule on your devices. These folks, typically ladies, will check on their kids. Let ‘em do it quickly, openly, without apology, and back to work.


The government dropping ICD-10 and waiting for ICD-11. The costs of systems, implementations, and training, especially for physicians, is clearly not worth the benefit to a handful of researchers and will do absolutely nothing to directly improve patient care. To complain about the cost of healthcare while spending money that doesn’t directly improve care is ludicrous. The government slowing down the pace of MU and only focusing on those aspects that directly improve patient care. (Seeing a trend here?) The government stopping changes that only impact billing. Let’s put our focus and money to better use improving patient care, not worrying about how to pay less for it or spending more time on record keeping.


A  major issue with us is lack of resources across many of the departments. The Catch-22 is that IT could help by automating some of the workflows, but we do not have the money or the human capital to assist given our EHR implementation. IT is working to generate as many initiatives as possible that would allow team members to better document what we actually did to the patient through documentation and capture applicable charges. The thought here is that we could achieve better reimbursement through increased documentation of what we actually did for the patient. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”….we are pushing out analytics and other business intelligence deliverables to leaders such that they can have information in a more timely and readable fashion. These deliverables are done real time on a proactive basis and provided at least weekly. In their office, leaders can look at throughput, length of stay, payer mix, etc. without having to call down to have one of my team members run a report and then interoffice or email the output.


Create processes for improved communication between departments – streamline tech services; increased qualified staff – mentoring programs on line; identify marketing opportunities to show case hospital success – social media support.


Reduction of regulatory burdens which consume lets and lots of resources including IT to "remediate" and impedes innovation. Support the digitization of all business processes to align with MU and transition to EMR, etc. Drive true patient engagement very openly and aggressively. IT would benefit from these changes and could work to facilitate patient engagement.


Improved integration of IT and Informatics into Strategic Planning and Business Development. Improved adherence to strategic planning (we spend too much time chasing shiny objects that don’t contribute to strategic gains). Improved measurement and learning from strategic actions taken (i.e., measuring how well we actually did).


Robust report writing capabilities with a clear roadmap of standardized reports across the organization. We have lots of data, but much is not useful. Also have people running reports from various systems that don’t match—lots of confusion! Standardized processes for onboarding employed physicians.  We have chaos that includes HR, Finance, Physician Enterprise, Property Management, Credentialing, and IT, due to a non standardized approach. Better integration between hospital operations and ambulatory operations. With the rapid growth of the ambulatory world over the last few years, these two entities have been separately managed and poorly integrated. IT can and should be a strategic partner for the planning and execution of all three of these actions, providing technology solutions and  facilitating standardization.


A shift of focus back on to patient care and not reimbursements/cost only. In our situation, we are a single-entity, regional non-profit. We have many hospital-owned clinics, of course. The past few years with all the cuts to reimbursements the organization has moved on all types of budget and process improvements. I’m all for process improvements, but the other side of budget cuts if not done well can be damaging. The organization’s competitive advantage was always patient care. The patient came to us because they didn’t want to travel to a larger city and a larger care environment. Now that we’ve eliminated whole scores of patient transport people, floor secretaries, and even furloughed some nursing staff, that advantage is gone. We run positive margins is the crazy part. I fear in time those margins will shrink and it’s not going to be because of costs. It’s going to be because we lost our best patients to other competitors. Even if your payer mix is only 10-12 percent insurance, those are the people getting the cancer/spine/heart treatments that keep a unit/hospital in the black. How can IT help that? That’s hard as that is a human element. We can support the frontline with streamlined systems but IT can’t be there caring for the patient. IT is a force multiplier on many things but not patient-focused staffing. Those patient transport staff who used to move patients out of the ER but now there is backlog getting patients to the floor from the ER.  I suppose IT could find a robotic system from and industrial plant and put that to use to automatically transport a patient to their waiting room! That will really help with patient satisfaction scores!


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One Response to “Advisory Panel: Three Hospital Improvement Actions”

  1. 1
    AC Says:

    How about publishing the prices for all procedures, drugs, etc? It’s ludicrous that the patients have no idea what something will cost until they come out of it (and often months afterwards still getting more and more bills). How about ensuring that everyone pays the same prices? You have no idea how bad a patient feels if they go and haggle and all of a sudden their bill drops 30-40%. It’s not a used car dealership we’re talking about, it’s people’s lives.

    I understand that there are variances, I’m not asking for exact up front count of number of bandages, but all the variances should be explainable in a clear and easy to understand printout. The hospitals should be able to justify down the penny all the charges, and IT can do this.

    The government should make all hospitals publish and stick to their prices for everyone. Then you’ll see competition and those prices will come down.

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