Unwavering Commitment to Internal Improvement Embedded in Hospitals' DNA

Everyone agrees that the nation's health system is under severe pressure to provide the quality of care that Americans have come to expect at a price we can afford. But there's good news: Despite the ambiguity surrounding the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, boards, CEOs and their teams are forging ahead to transform their business and care models. Impervious to election rhetoric, their objective is to improve outcomes while preparing for significant changes in the reimbursement landscape. While partisan discussions may impact the coming election, the health delivery system's transformation now has a constructive foundation for improvement that will not be altered by politics.

Innovations, best practices and breakthrough ideas are emerging that will help hospitals thrive in the future — provided they have the courage to move forward on four proven paths for success:

1. Customer focus and waste reduction

When organizations become distracted by their own complexity and by self-imposed organizational silos, waste proliferates. Consequently, it becomes difficult to find a common baseline from which to make improvements and — even worse  — industry leaders may fail to fully appreciate the "customer experience."

Many organizations are beginning to apply Lean management methodologies that focus on the user of a process or system as the primary vantage point when identifying waste. In healthcare organizations, the user is the patient. Walking through the patient experience can be enlightening — and prescriptive — even for the best hospital systems.

2. Standardization to eliminate variability

In a capitated environment, significant variation in hospital systems may lead to high costs and unreimbursed care. Focusing on clinical standards where practical, "measuring" care, identifying opportunities to cut costs and integrating the way care is delivered can lead to more predictability and efficiency and dramatically reducing length of stay and other improvements which impact reimbursement.  

3. New sources of revenue

Regardless of whether reductions in reimbursement come by way of legislation or market forces, many providers and payors are searching for new revenue sources.  In addition to buying physician practices and developing new payor models, providers are exploring the ability to license or sell proven techniques or technologies that were developed by their caregivers. Health systems are beginning to see this type of intellectual capital as a potential source of income.

4. Achieving collective impact

Innovative hospital systems are seeking new avenues to collaborate with competitors and non-competitors to co-develop protocols, treatments and solutions to complex medical conditions. While there is a significant learning curve to overcome, creative organizations are finding ways to bring collective impact by collaborating with technology, marketing, venture capital and other players inside and outside of healthcare. Learning to innovate and bring fresh eyes to old and emerging problems is leading to improved perceptions of legacy organizations as well as new sources of intellectual capital and associated revenue.  

Whichever path reform takes us, everyone agrees that fee-for-service is on its way out and evidence-based care and capitated payments are the future of healthcare. Survival will require reducing waste and variation while driving innovation and synchronizing care and processes — no easy task for any organization but thankfully already embedded in many hospitals' DNA.

Ron Wince is the CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, a national hospital and health system efficiency consulting firm that has worked with world-class organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, the American Red Cross, the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic in addition to numerous regional hospitals to help them transform themselves to meet the tsunami of new demands, regulations and pressures to streamline and improve patient outcomes.

More Articles on Performance Improvement:

Playing in the Gray Space is Critical for Process Improvement
Lean as an Alternative to Mass Layoffs in Healthcare

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