Author: Laurie Leonard, Schumacher Clinical Partners Consulting Services
In Part One of this series, we explored the idea that changes in patient flow could address financial challenges and positively impact your bottom line. Adopting the perspective of the patient experience helps frame the issues in the proper context, and enables you to anchor solutions on a core process within the healthcare delivery system that is endemic, lasting, and supremely important. By tying challenges and solutions to patient flow and their impact on the patient experience, we distill them down to the singular question, “Does this process or change improve access to needed care, efficiency, clarity, and value to the patient?” If you can answer yes to that question, chances are high that it brings the same benefits to the overall organization.
To help you put this idea into practice, we’ve identified three questions to consider before initiating any changes within your organization.
What market opportunities are you most excited about for your health system or facility, and how would approaching these from the orientation of the patient help you decide how to execute?
The first step toward identifying some of the most impactful programs is to identify the most critical gaps in the patient experience. Where is the patient experience lacking? At which touchpoints could the experience be meaningfully improved?
For example, if your objective is to reduce barriers to care, follow the patient flow to understand how your patients make care decisions and access care. At what point are they engaged? At what point do they tend to disengage and abandon care and for what reason? What improvements or enhancements to the process could reduce patient disengagement and help them get the care they need?
What operational challenges are currently facing your organization, and how would optimizing and managing patient flow help you overcome them?
If your hospital is like many others, the challenges you face likely include reducing the cost of care, improving quality, increasing revenues, and achieving high patient loyalty and satisfaction scores. Barriers to attaining these goals often stem from autonomous decision-making and insufficient collaboration among patients and providers.
Follow the patient flow from the point of entry through all touchpoints within and outside of your system. Where does duplication, rework, or idle time exist and how could it be avoided? What processes or gaps in service delivery exist that frustrate, surprise, or harm the patient – clinically or financially? What information is missing that would help inform the care decision, and how does that information get to the point of care so it is relevant and actionable? And ultimately, if you were to correct these processes to benefit the patient, would they have a significant benefit to your bottom line, as well?
How would the revenue cycle benefit from the adoption of a clinically-integrated, patient-centered orientation rather than the traditional front office vs. back office arrangement?
The healthcare industry historically has been rather unique in separating the product from the pricing, rather than taking a holistic perspective in our assessment of the value of the service being delivered. Though recently we have begun appreciating the benefit of making clinically and financially informed decisions, most providers still struggle with the practical realities of integrating these two traditionally separate processes. The challenge can appear almost overwhelming until you frame it in the context of the patient experience.
At what specific points in the care delivery process are decisions made that incur cost for both the organization and the patient? How do we make information available at the right point in time to help decision-makers (including the patient) understand the economic implications of their decisions, and the options available to them? Where along the continuum of patient flow should traditional revenue cycle activities (e.g., documentation, coding, collections) ideally occur - and what should those processes look like - to optimize reimbursement and reduce the time drain and frustration of the collections process?
The hallmark of ideal patient flow should be a process that optimizes access to needed care, efficiency, clarity and value. Identifying gaps in patient flow where these ideals are not met will help your organization focus on making changes the will both improve patient experience and your bottom line.
For more on SCP Consulting Services and their actionable, real-world healthcare expertise in core competencies like growth strategy, telehealth development, revenue cycle transformation and clinical performance improvement, visit consultscp.com.