Respond positively and become ADEPT at the business of health care
In the more than three decades I’ve been consulting leaders in health care and medical practice management, I’ve learned that addressing broken processes always lead to a solution. If you’re looking to understand why something’s not working, most often you will find the process is broken. And, it’s not necessarily anybody’s fault. Don’t look for someone to blame. Time and time again, I see talented, capable professionals, who are being victimized by a process that a medical practice has become enslaved within. They are being held back by the broken process, almost all of the time they are not the cause of the broken process.
If you work past vilification of a person or group, you will find an unworkable procedure. Throughout the years, I’ve learned there are certain signs that a process is broken:
1. Application: Every medical practice has a variety of applications, from an EHR, to billing and other record-keeping software programs. Sometimes, there remains a long-standing paper-based routing procedure. Whatever the application, your warning sign is a time-consuming process because it is poorly implemented, being performed by the wrong person, or lacks measurable benefit to the patient or the practice.
2. Distinction. Does your staff lack a clear definition of success? People who lack a purpose will often remark, “If we weren’t so busy, we could do a better job.” The point is, your work is not patient-centered and your practice lacks a known or practiced brand or distinguishing characteristic that sets you apart from your competitors.
3. Effectiveness – For whatever reason and whatever-the-task, the job is simply not getting done., because it detracts rather than contributes to patient care or organizational performance.
4. Profitability – Your activity is not contributing positively to the bottom line, in fact it most likely detracts from it. It may be inefficient, expensive, redundant, or simply just a non-essential activity, because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
5. Talent – Do you experience frequent turnover or suffer through office culture clashes and poor morale? This is a familiar sign of a broken process. People need to know that they are contributing to mission or goals of an organization, appreciated and recognized by the patient and the team.
Amid the review of broken processes, it’s true that somewhere along the line a person created it, and further down that same line someone perpetuated it. This activity happened because someone or a group thought they had to do so, it did not come about due to any malintent. The key to success in your evaluation is to give an objective review to the processes and ask specific, and often hard questions to every process that is not operating well. These questions are direct and to the point:
- What are we doing?
- Why are we doing it?
- What would happen if we stopped doing it?
- Will it help us serve our patients better?
For example, one client of mine had a staff member who created a report, each morning, about the prior day’s activity which no one ever referred to. Creating the report took several hours to complete, per day, pulling the staffer away from important tasks that supported effective patient care. Essentially, the frequency of the report was not equal to the frequency of the review. After a critical assessment, we determined that the report could be generated in the same amount of time for a weekly or monthly review, rather than making it a daily task. And, with better results and insights needed for effective clinic management.
So, when you ask “Why do you do this?” and the answer is “Because we’ve always done it that way?” Or if you ask “Who uses it?” with the reply “Nobody.” Put that task in the funeral pyre and create an effective solution. Soon enough your improved processes will make your medical practice ADEPT℠ at the business of health care.