Posts in the Process Improvement category

Process involvement can be defined or explained as the proactive task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing business processes or processes in an organization. The goal of the improvement is to optimize resources and time to meet new standards of quality.  Process improvement involves a systematic approach which follows a specific methodology. There are different approaches to make and that’s why there are various examples of process improvement in Healthcare. Some general examples of process improvement are benchmarking and lean manufacturing. Different approaches to process management use different methods of course and focus on different areas of improvement. In healthcare, you don’t have to stick with one model of process improvement model to achieve your goal. Processes can be modified, two processes can be combined and subprocesses can be used to complement the main process chosen.

A good example of process improvement in organizational transformation in the healthcare industry is the use of standardized care protocols with clinical pathways. In a hospital’s system, standardized care means that pediatric patients come first. Seattle Children’s hospitals applied this model and also reduced variations which caused a decrease in costs. Due to this change, the hospital now boasts of 39 clinical pathways and 67 practitioners who use these pathways. Seattle Children’s hospital was able to foster creativity and increase the overall productivity of the hospital personnel. The hospital has also been able to learn from it’s improved process and further improve on it while getting rid of anything process that would stifle creativity. Evidence-based practices focus on the real pattern and not smoke screens. This way, patients receive the care they actually need and not have to go through unnecessary processes. Seattle Children’s hospital prior, lacked clinical processes and standards that hampered their ability to analyze data trends and jump on improvement opportunities. They set out to fix this and improve on their process. The way they did this was by focusing on reducing variation and improving patient safety. They began building clinical pathways and after five years they had 39 pathways guide providers in treatment plans for patients with a predictable clinical course. The guidelines standardize care for 13 medical specialties and six different surgical subspecialties. They also incorporated as a subprocess cross-diagnosis and cross-setting pathways that standardized treatments for each care point. A patient is considered “on pathway” if he or she meets the defined patient population definition and the pathway-specific order set is activated. Every pathway demonstrates improvement along the Institute of Medicine’s Dimensions of Care, which promotes using evidence-based practices to strengthen clinical systems. This process and sub-processing helped the healthcare providers in  Seattle Children’s hospital reduce variations and subsequently reduce human errors during medical procedures and diagnosis.

As learned from the example of Seattle children’s hospital, we can learn that process improvement is an ongoing practice and should always be followed up with analysis of tangible areas, problem areas etc that might need improvement. Successful results can always be measured in the outcome and enhancement of performance quality, patient satisfaction, increased efficiency, and overall smoothness of the process.

A useful tip which is actually more than a tip is that process improvement is also process improvement. The actual fact is that that process management is really about quality improvement. These quality improvement concepts and techniques have been used to transform almost every major industry in the world with dramatic results. The last holdouts, the last passions of resistance, are primarily healthcare, higher education, and government. Now, it’s happening to healthcare. I believe higher education is imminent; it’s anyone’s guess whether government will ever succumb to these forces.