How process may be healthcare's greatest problem

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Many healthcare leaders believe technological changes will quickly improve their organizations, but unless care is standardized, these changes cannot affect genuine change, according to an op-ed in the Harvard Business Review.

John Toussaint, MD, founder and executive chairman of Catalysis, and Kathryn Correia, chief administrative officer of Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, write that the lack of reproducibility in the care-delivery process causes errors that no technological innovation can make up for.

"When it comes to change, the technology is the easiest part. Most health systems in America have or are implementing the EHR," the authors write. "And the vendor processes for implementation have become very good. The hard part is to get the doctors, nurses and administrators to agree on what is the best way to deliver the care."

The authors argue that leaders can improve care processes by bringing together members of a clinical team to improve an existing care process or radically reshape a new one through design thinking.

"It takes more design time to create a care model that builds in quality and efficiency, but without that work upfront, the technology doesn't matter and, in fact, only increases costs. This thinking is not new," the authors write. "Many industries from aviation to automotive to nuclear power have been applying this concept of  'process before technology' for a long time. The safety and quality results in those industries is second to none. It's about time healthcare catches up. Our lives may depend on it."

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