Focusing resources: 3 questions to ask when prioritizing large-scale initiatives

Large-scale, industry-wide initiatives – such as Meaningful Use, ICD-10, revenue cycle optimization and quality and safety programs, for example – are impacting every hospital and healthcare organization in the country. With reimbursement changes and regulatory deadlines only adding to the pressure, many organizations are now finding it difficult to prioritize projects.

Effectively managing so many competing endeavors is a daunting task, because each one is unique and requires significant human and financial resources throughout preparation and rollout. To realize success, therefore, hospital C-suite executives need a process that helps balance efforts to accommodate each initiative appropriately.

ICD-10 delay underscores the need to revisit priorities

ICD-10 offers a perfect example of prioritization hardship. Many organizations have focused so keenly on ICD-10 over the past 12 to 18 months that other projects have fallen behind schedule, stalled or dropped from the "to-do" list altogether. As a result, the compliance delay announced last spring created a sense of limbo – especially for those healthcare organizations that already had made significant progress toward the transition.

On a positive note, however, the new Oct. 1, 2015 ICD-10 implementation date now provides an opportunity to regain the momentum for other regulatory deadlines and ideas previously put on hold. From revenue cycle optimization to clinical documentation improvement, healthcare organizations should be evaluating how to move forward on multiple advancement plans.

Effective project coordination requires a healthcare organization to gauge the work it has performed thus far, keep its eye on the bigger picture and determine the best use of its limited resources and skills to achieve goals. The following three key questions can help hospital executives drive the prioritization process:

1. Which initiatives support the organization's overall strategic plan? Healthcare executives should review organizational goals, then determine which current or future undertakings will have the most impact on their achievement. With those priorities identified, decide how to re-deploy resources to support them. Consider whether time and resources are better spent completing one or two smaller projects, or incorporating several smaller projects into larger initiatives. For example, clinical documentation improvement (CDI) is a common initiative to continually enhance physician productivity. Increasingly, organizations are incorporating CDI and payer initiatives such as ICD-10 in order to address multiple objectives concurrently.

2. Which projects involve regulatory requirements that have not shifted? Identify and evaluate any efforts designed to meet pressing regulatory requirements such as Meaningful Use Stage 2. If, for example, a healthcare organization's growth and acquisition tactics include the consolidation of administrative, financial and IT operations, the organization might wish to put those consolidation efforts on hold until all MU2 technology requirements are completed. If the organization's goal is to remain independent, it might wish to concentrate its efforts on implementing and maximizing the use of technology to strengthen its ability to compete in the market and to navigate future regulatory requirements.

3. How does each project support future improvements and operational success? Be sure to look beyond a venture's immediate impact to see how it affects future goals and business results. For instance, an organization might feel that it should not update its billing system until after a major EHR implementation or the ICD-10 compliance deadline. By taking a longer view, however, it might recognize that updating the billing system sooner might give it the ability to improve the revenue cycle and support better reimbursement – and thus mitigate the projected negative financial impacts of ICD-10 when the deadline arrives.

Change is the only constant

ICD-10 is just one example of the ways in which healthcare organizations will continue to find themselves readjusting projects based on changing regulatory requirements. It is difficult to have a long-term strategy with so many key initiatives that can be impacted by unexpected change. That is why organizational priorities can no longer be set annually and then put on shelf.

Instead, strategic plans must be constantly reviewed – preferably on a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly basis – and adjusted to reflect the prevailing healthcare environment and regulatory updates. With an ongoing and well-considered prioritization process in place driven by three key questions, healthcare executives are better able to effectively balance efforts and manage resources. As a result, they can be confident that their major endeavors will have the backing needed to achieve their organizations' overarching long-term goals.

Rob Culbert is president and CEO of Culbert Healthcare Solutions, a professional services firm serving healthcare organizations in the areas of operations management, revenue cycle, clinical transformation and information technology.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

 

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