Implementing and maintaining change has become an enormous challenge within healthcare. It is little wonder. Continuous improvement efforts occur within a complex industry as transformational change is rocking its long-established business model. As a result, improvement has never been more essential in all of healthcare.
With all that change, it is surprising that “Improvement Management” is seldom practiced. Management of change is required to sustain improvement, utilize limited resources, adjust to diverse healthcare settings, and ensure lasting improved performance. Therefore, Improvement Management is the highest application of change.
Disorder in healthcare contributes to loss of reimbursement, poor quality, increased costs, and potential harm to patients. Current improvement efforts require considerable time and resources of staff, yet their efforts often yield marginally effective or short-lived improvement. Improvement fails to attain full potential because lack of comprehensive integration and alignment of change into organizational operations.
In contrast, Improvement Management disseminates timely innovations and interventions throughout the healthcare organization to attain operational compliance and reduce error. This proactive approach spreads and sustains improvement by comprehensively incorporating it into operational structure and tools. Behavior change among staff is seamless as documentation, policy, procedure, job tools, patient education, consent forms, evaluations, Strategic Plans, Medical Staff Rules and Regulations, and more are all simultaneously in alignment. Surveyors find fewer discrepancies, process is better standardized, and physicians and staff spend less time on operational issues and more time with patients.
Improvement Management provides:
- Horizontal and vertical operational support to expand successful improvement beyond the initial project,
- An alternative to numerous previous disappointing improvement efforts,
- A method that adapts to diverse operations and healthcare settings,
- A step toward Operational Excellence, and
- The promotion of a robust culture of safety.
This guides compliance with current best practice, proactively reduces systemic causes of error, and expedites staff behavior change by:
- Providing coordinated just-in-time tools and medical record documentation methods throughout the continuum of care,
- Effective use of human factors,
- Standardizing practice and process, and
- Integrating patient safety and operational excellence throughout the organization.
Barbara Duffy, DHSc, MPH, CPHA, LHRM