Leveraging Business Process Improvement (BPI) Within the Healthcare Industry

Significant opportunities exist to leverage BPI to drive improved patient outcomes and satisfaction among patients, providers and staff.

With the ongoing deployment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare providers are now, more than ever, feeling the pressure to ensure positive patient outcomes, improve the quality and effectiveness of operations, manage costs and increase satisfaction among patients, medical professionals and staff. To address these needs, new technology can certainly play an important role, but there is also a large opportunity to deploy business process improvement (BPI) techniques to drive progress in healthcare.

Through BPI, many healthcare providers have achieved 40%+ improvements in numerous areas including quality, lead time, wait times, errors and productivity. These measures all have a direct impact on patient satisfaction/outcomes. Key opportunity areas may include.

  • Patient flow across all areas (e.g., Emergency, X-Ray, Lab, OR, etc.)
  • Scheduling (e.g., outpatient, radiology/MRI, surgery)
  • Patient access and registration
  • Patient accounting (e.g., billing, collections, etc.)
  • Charting
  • Materials management and supply chain

To effectively deploy BPI, key success factors include:

1.  Patient Focus – Process and operational improvement is not about cost reduction. The driving force behind BPI is to improve care coordination, patient outcomes and satisfaction. Every change considered should be evaluated using this lens.

2.  Leadership – Top down executive sponsorship of BPI is critical. The CEO and leadership must be visible champions of the initiatives and show commitment to driving and supporting change. BPI is not a short-term initiative but an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.   

3.  Engagement throughout Organization – Involvement of front-line care providers is important to harness the best ideas and gain buy-in for improvements. This includes physicians, nurses, aides, techs and other key personnel involved in care coordination. Involvement of middle management is also important as they can help support the change when involved or easily squash the change if they are not.

4.  Change Culture – Instilling a culture that fosters an openness to change is critical in order to engage people across the organization and make them feel safe to develop and try out new ideas. One of the keys to doing this is to adopt a “no-layoff policy.” The goal of BPI is not to reduce headcount, but to help appropriately allocate resources to improve the patient experience and outcomes.

5.  Structured Problem Solving Methodology – Making available industry-proven problem solving methods, tools and techniques, and then training personnel on them helps ensure an efficient and standard way of improving processes.

6.  Continuous Improvement – Effective change is done incrementally and ongoing from week to week and not through large, one-time initiatives. Putting the right measures in place is a key enabler and critical to monitoring the effectiveness of changes made and guiding future efforts. It is also helpful to benchmark improvements against similar processes from other industries to avoid the “just as good” mentality within the healthcare industry.

In summary, there are significant opportunities to leverage BPI to improve operational effectiveness and satisfaction among patients, providers and staff. Implementing BPI strategies will positively impact a provider’s bottom line and allow reinvestment in enhanced capabilities and services for its patient population.