To be the best in any industry requires a vigilance to standards and the market, an understanding of customer wants and needs, and the determination to work day and night to make it all happen. When talking about most businesses and services, this quite clear cut and enough to launch a well-designed plan. However, when discussing healthcare, it is not as straightforward or easy to define. There are so many facets to healthcare, which isn’t an excuse, but a motivating factor for many in the industry to make their own definitions, set the bar extremely high and make a difference in their sphere of influence. If you look at those organizations that are leaders within the industry and within their communities, you will find that most if not all have a clear focus on the outcome improvement strategies in healthcare. They must be doing something right if outcomes of their patients are of the highest priority. So, the question becomes: what are they doing to improve outcomes?
Do No Harm
With very few exceptions, all healthcare professionals do not seek out opportunities to do harm to their patients, yet there are times when harm does happen to a patient. Most times, this isn’t intentional, but occurs when physicians make hasty decisions or may be forced into a decision by outside forces, which leads to a poor outcome. Everyone involved hopes to see progress for a patient, and rush to judgement to either make it happen or push to make it happen. Sometimes patience is required and that may be the last thing a patient or his/her family may feel. Safety is essential and comes at a price for everyone involved, however, in the long-term safety will bring about positive outcomes.
Harm can also be done by the patient due to not following through on doctor’s orders or prescriptive instructions. This is done both intentionally and unintentionally and requires diligence on the part of healthcare professionals to follow up and communicate with patients. Obviously, when a patient is on a self-destructive path, intentional harm is a consequence. Other patients may not understand the directions given to them for new prescriptions, therapies or other requirements and are too afraid to ask for help. Both groups of people necessitate extra efforts to help ensure betterment and each organization must work to find what are the best ways in which to facilitate these sorts of results.
Just a following a map to a given destination will help safeguard the driver from not making it to desired point, following proven care methods will safeguard from wasted time and energy, promote services that will aid in help and recovery and improve outcomes in patient care. As with doing no harm to patients, most physicians and healthcare staff don’t seek out radical or controversial care methods to practice on patients, but sometimes steps are judges as not important, attention is not paid to information and waste may be a generally accepted loss to the organization.
Effective care means being methodical and comprehensive. The culture of an organization must support this behavior for each patient and in each situation. This goes beyond the conscientious work that goes into every person that walks through the door, but also is the persistence paid to avoid things like duplicate testing, and multiple unneeded visits to offices or clinics. Time dedicated towards meeting with patients is also as precious as the time demanded from a patient to make an appointment.
Patient Centered Care
Going right along with being effective in the care provided is the need to be focused on the patient and their needs. Being patient centered signifies that an organization understands and follows a patient’s values and preferences, even when they may be contrary to mainstream medicine. Most of the patients you run into that have strong beliefs aren’t going to contradict medical advice, but may have a preference that is different from normal practices. One example might be where a women going through labor doesn’t want IV fluids but this is against most regular procedures. Both patient and hospital have their reasons for standing their ground, but more and more, hospitals and other facilities are listening to their patients wants and needs and making concessions, usually with a bit of professional advice.
In a day and age with so much information available at our fingertips and the willingness of most patients to be highly involved in their own care, sometimes, patient knows best. This can be difficult for many professionals who have spent years learning how the body works and the best ways to aid in recovery when the body isn’t doing well. But sometimes, even against the knowledge of physicians and nurses, the patient knows their body and knows what is best. Obviously, when there is more at stake than just differing opinions, other steps and advice must be taken, but every now and then, the patient actually knows better than the doctor.
Most everyone knows about getting the right help to the right person at the right time, but being timely is more than just this: making sure that time and resources are not wasted, and eliminating delays are also key elements. Unfortunately, there are always the horror stories that you see on nightly news casts about a young father that went into surgery for a muscle tear in his shoulder but receives surgery on his appendix. Okay, that might be slightly exaggerated, but there are medical mistakes that happen all too often. There are also stories of patients that have had to visit several doctors, only to be sent back and forth because of some missing information or mix-up.
Delays and wasted resources account for huge expenses to insurance companies and patients, along with extreme dissatisfaction and trust in the healthcare system as a whole. Outcomes improvement in healthcare will not happen if all areas afflicted by this type of action are not caught and corrected. It’s not to say that there won’t be occasional delays, but the excess to which some patients are subjected is unacceptable.
Going hand in hand with timeliness is the fact that efficiency within the system must be a part of the foundation and culture. Finding the waste happening with time, equipment, materials and energy will usually indicate where other problems lie within the system. Being will to find, admit, correct and regulate the waste that might be trending throughout a facility will go a long way to preventing bigger problems creeping into the system and help to better support a patient’s care.
You might think that as far as we have come as a nation that treating patients equally would be a given, however this is not the case. Many patients are left wanting and waiting because they are on Medicare or don’t have any insurance at all. Biases are always at work, and we can’t necessarily help that because of our human nature, but this doesn’t have to rule all decisions made and the discrimination that sometimes works its way into the daily practices of a healthcare organization.
Having checks and balances between personnel can help combat this treatment. Teaching healthcare professionals to recognize their biases is another option. But, whatever way your organization works to prevent inequitable treatment will lend itself to betterment of outcomes to all patients.
Outcomes improvement in healthcare is not achieved by luck or change; it isn’t happened upon by accident or magically instilled in everyone. There is much work that goes into developing a culture of change within an organization and helping to sustain it as the tides of change brings in more challenges. Helping to serve within a community is a tall order but one that many healthcare facilities are toiling to accomplish. Improvements of any kind will serve those on either side of the stethoscope for a long time to come.