Mid-size independent medical practices are always looking for ways to cut costs while improving patient services. Practices have to do more and more with less and less. Streamlining operations can be a tall order when time, staffing and budgets are tight. Physicians and staff may not see themselves as the ones who need to take responsibility for creating efficiencies or ensuring technology is being used correctly. Here are a few ideas to get the process started while working within your clinic constraints.
Don’t assume that everyone is using that great technology training that you provided three months ago. When training is provided have a series of individual or group check-ins at one hour, one day, one week and one month. Even the best training can go to waste if staff are not held accountable to actually using what they have been taught.
Sharing technology tips is easy. When you hear a great efficiency tip, encourage providers and staff to share it with others. Everyone learns differently so repacking the information is important. Share it verbally, follow-up with an e-mail, and hand it out on a tip sheet. Make sure you put the tip into context so that staff understand that the goal is to improve efficiency and accuracy.
A strategy to get an analysis of how you are using your existing tools and staff have an outside vendor assess your use of an existing system. They can be a big help identifying if you are using your EMR or practice management tools effectively. Ask how your clinics use of the system tools are different than other practices. Let a vendor tell you about their clinic favorites and their key differentiators. An outside voice can have more impact than a manager who may sound like a broken record. Best part, vendors are often more than happy to provide an assessment for free if it means that their tools will be used optimally.
Much has changed with greater adoption of electronic health records systems. EHR technology brings greater reporting and interaction among staff and providers. According to the CDC the adoption of EHR systems by office-based physicians increased 21% between 2012 and 2013. This does not means that everyone just started using their EHRs as designed and intended. Without a doubt, there is always room for improvement. Come to providers with specific examples that walk through a particular efficiency issue, how a technology tip will help, how this can be applied across a range of cases, and what the specific outcome will be if implemented. To be successful, administrators must see the process of technology and efficiency implementation with provider workflow as a partnership focused on overall outcomes for the patients and the mission of the practice.
Clinic administrators may be challenged when implementing technology and efficiencies with providers. Providers are often focused on autonomy and immediacy of decision making that is in the best interests of their patients. Administrators typically see a bigger picture and have a broader understanding of how changes involve the various parties. For example, an administrator may see documentation and coding very differently than a provider, and how these elements can lead to better outcomes for the patient, billing process, and clinic reimbursement. And as always, keeping it short and focused on actions goes a long way with holding providers attention.
The benefits of building towards efficiencies and utilizing technology effectively can have a real payoff. Once a new technology efficiency is identified, an exercise of “Stop, Start, Continue” can help stop old reporting or workflows, start using a new software solution, and solidify that staff should continue with what was already working. This gives staff an opportunity to see the solution as an improvement on an old practice, not just one more thing they have to do. Hearing the message that we can stop inefficient processes if we can find a better alternative can also lead to technology solutions and efficiency ideas being generated spontaneously by staff. Ultimately, the administrator can become the facilitator and connector and communicator of these changes rather than the driving force.