Beyond CQI: How Patient-Centered Care and Efficiency Go Hand-in-Hand 

KristieSmallBy Kristie Huff, Chief Nursing Executive and Senior Vice President of Transformation for Care Logistics

(Originallly published in The Health Care Blog)

For decades, automakers, delivery companies and the airline industry have created better products, improved processes, and greatly increased user satisfaction and safety by adopting the principles of CQI. Simply put, it means constantly looking at our processes and asking ourselves, “Can we do it better”?

Hospitals have adopted CQI principles in many areas. But even after decades of performance improvement projects, the patient’s journey from admission to discharge is too often still marked by missed opportunities to deliver the right care in the appropriate amount of time.

High-performing hospitals are finding that sustaining the benefits of CQI means adopting an entirely new model of care delivery.  They are also recognizing that the most efficient way to deliver care is also the most patient-friendly. Let me explain.

The Wisdom of Patient-Centered Care

Decades of experience in hospital operations have taught me that providing exceptional, cost effective care benefits both the hospital and patient. As we shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, we’re looking to capture savings in every imaginable nook and cranny. But the most cost-effective way to deliver care is to operate as a system, with a focus on the patient. When you focus on the patient first, everything else falls into place.

What Do Patients Want?

Patients want smooth, efficient care. They want a safe, friendly environment. They want to know what’s going on, to be treated as individuals, and to be treated with respect. They want staff to know who they are, and they don’t want to have to tell their story over and over. They want to be placed in the correct unit, and for that unit to have sufficient staff to attend to their care. They want to get home as soon as possible. I am, of course, describing the perfect patient experience, and I believe that experience is attainable.

How Focusing on the Patient Improves the Bottom line

The secret to creating this ideal experience for all patients lies in boosting efficiency. One change that helps hospitals eliminate time-wasting “white space” from care delivery is moving from a linear to a centralized hub-and-spoke system. It’s a bit like an air traffic control center, designed to see and manage the care activities of every patient throughout the hospital. Big monitors in the hub and on the units tracks patients, beds, transport, environmental services, diagnostic procedures, and unit nursing capacity so that patients move smoothly from ED and admission to discharge, with maximum efficiency.

Coordinators in the hub constantly communicate with the units and service areas to ensure fast, correct transitions at all stages of care. These changes in process and technology progress the quality care of all patients as quickly as possible.

Changing the Culture

Orchestrating successful progression of patients through the spectrum of care requires ongoing accurate communication among departments and units, precise staffing at all junctures, and total visibility into where the patients, caregivers, beds and other resources are at all times. Making all this happen requires a cultural shift.

Management and staff must embrace the “patient first” mindset, starting at the top of the organization. We also need to listen to the front line staff. What barriers are impeding their ability to deliver patient-centered care? How can we help them deliver better care?

Improving care efficiency benefits everyone. Physicians, nurses and technicians have more time to care for patients. Length-of-stay decreases. Patients receive exceptional care and have a happier hospital experience, which means hospitals realize maximum reimbursements at the lowest costs.

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