How to Identify and Eliminate Hospital Inefficiencies

When an organization as large and complex as a hospital experiences inefficiency, the price tags add up quickly. But that’s not the only downside. Unfortunately, healthcare inefficiencies can increase patient suffering. It’s in everyone’s best interest to eliminate wastefulness in the industry. But knowing where to start can be a significant challenge.

According to one 2014 survey of more than 400 U.S. healthcare providers, organizations waste more than $11 billion yearly due to inefficient communication alone. This includes areas like admitting and transferring patients, coordinating emergency response protocols and lacking the means to communicate via secure text.

Communication represents just one area in which hospitals can improve. Let’s take a closer look at some common inefficiencies and how to address them in a productive manner.

Convoluted Documentation

We are currently experiencing the widespread transition from paper charts to electronic health records (EHRs). But different organizations are in various stages of transition and have different best practices for usage. Now is the time to audit your organization’s documentation methods to check for redundancy. Are physicians using paper charts and EHRs? Are practitioners encountering duplicate processes in data entry? Is the protocol confusing or clunky in any way? Figuring out what’s working and what isn’t is a matter of conducting a high-level examination.

High Hospital Readmission Rates

Given that hospitals face real penalties for having high readmission rates, this is a key area of focus. In 2016, 799 hospitals out of 3,400 adhered to the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program’s standards well enough to avoid fiscal penalties for 30-day readmission rates. This just goes to show most organizations are facing increasing responsibility to improve communication and logistics pertaining to patient care. It’s crucial to keep close tabs on readmission rates and pinpoint contributing factors by turning to data.

Hiring Bottlenecks

To provide top-notch patient care, you need to employ the right people in the right positions at the right times. Hiring and training gaps cause bottlenecks and errors. There’s also a potential impending shortage of primary care professionals. Becker’s Healthcare notes that some estimates predict 20,000 missing primary care providers by 2020 and up to 90,000 by 2025. Every hospital needs a system for examining employee turnover, productivity and hiring trends.

The Role of Data in Healthcare

This all sounds very daunting. But the good news is that analytics in healthcare has advanced alongside these pressing challenges. Hospitals collect data every day pertaining to their operations; it only makes sense that this information would hold the key to improving performance. To set and meet benchmarks, hospitals must have a thorough understanding of factors affecting their operations.

According to one consultant for Forbes, possible use cases of data analytics in healthcare include: “faster identification of disease outbreaks, faster time to market for new drugs, personalized medicine based on individual DNA makeup, faster approval of health-care coverage and faster payment turnaround times.”

Using data analytics, decision-makers can figure out where exactly an organization is losing time and money. The rise of artificial intelligence-driven analytics also helps uncover insights hidden deep in data, meaning hospitals can glean insights faster than if a human team had to manually extract them.

Data Challenges for Healthcare Providers

The healthcare industry faces the challenge of storing and using patient data without violating any privacy rules. There’s also the issue of cybersecurity as it pertains to data usage. Any solution you implement or platform you utilize must have customizable governance controls for high-value data. Safeguarding access to certain data sets is a matter of avoiding the backlash of a data breach or hack, but it’s also just any reputable healthcare organization’s duty to its patient base.

Hospital inefficiencies are a real and pressing problem. Implementing data analytics and making decisions accordingly can reduce wasteful expenditures and tighten day-to-day operations.