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Six Steps for Outcomes-Based Improvement

January 15, 2015
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Suggestions for getting the most value out of an EHR

What are the key components for eliminating waste and improving efficiency and customer satisfaction while strengthening the bottom line? That’s the focus of a white paper released by Naperville, Ill.-based Impact Advisors, which provides insight for boosting the value of electronic health records (EHRs). The paper identifies optimization opportunities for provider organizations, as well as steps they can take to achieving those goals.

I think the paper is valuable because it offers a structured approach to implementing optimization strategies to increase the value of an EHR, both for clinical and revenue-cycle processes. As noted by Steven Schlossberg, M.D., chief medical officer at Impact Advisors, every organization should be looking for ways to optimize their EHR, but many don’t know where to start, or set optimization aside for later. He says that by pairing discipline with an outcomes-based approach, healthcare systems can achieve the full value of their EHR implementation.

Optimization can occur before, during or after an EHR implementation, but at its core, optimization efforts should be aimed toward outcomes-based improvement to meet defined set of objectives. Impact Advisors defines 10 opportunities for improved outcomes. One such opportunity: improving quality of care, which will provide value by enhancing patient care while minimizing provider risk associated with reduced reimbursement. Potential focus areas for achieving that outcome include population health and disease management and quality monitoring and reporting.

Other cited outcomes opportunities include: increase patient satisfaction; increase cash collections; decrease aging accounts; improve caregiver productivity and patient throughput; streamline key patient access functions; earn government incentives; improve patient safety support; and use software and workflows as designed and enhance EHR and operational governance.

The paper acknowledges that clinical and revenue-cycle optimization is not an easy task, and outlines six key steps to achieving those goals:

  1. Establish and measure KPIs to identify high-priority problem areas. it sugg4edsts setting specific targets and benchmarks, and determining how to measure progress.
  2. Assess people, process and technology. Once assembled useful process improvement tools include Lean, Six Sigma, and continuous process improvement. Prioritization is key, once root causes are identified.
  3. Optimize to achieve outcomes. Apply industry best practices from EHR user groups and other sources, and eliminate waste by eliminating steps that don’t add value. design and test a pilot to achieve the desired reqaults.
  4. Measure key performance indicators. Measure post-optimization KPIs, make adjustments until targets are achieved, and implement system-wide.
  5. Sustain results. Set up onging monitoring and reinforce behavior change.
  6. Transition ownership of the improved process to the front-line operational leadership.

Impact Advisors says that by applying a robust implementation strategy, healthcare systems can realize the expected value of an EHR implementation, but it emphasizes that success depends on a “disciplined, outcomes-based approach to meet a defined set of objectives.