In the healthcare industry, leaders are challenged to improve improve quality, safety, efficiency, and experience while also focusing on growth. That requires new approaches to existing care processes while also developing and implementing new models of care. Improvement strategies that previously worked are now falling short as patients have changed—what they think, how they feel, and how they’re behaving as it relates to healthcare. Patient expectations are higher and the bar is lower for the level of effort they are willing to expend.
Why does this matter? In the face of ongoing COVID-related challenges and an increasingly competitive environment, nontraditional, consumer-focused companies are expanding their service offerings while gaining market share. Walk-in care centers are growing in popularity with patients, and more companies are considering rolling out healthcare centers within their existing facilities. Along with Walgreens and CVS, Walmart is entering the market—not to mention the many freestanding urgent care centers around the country. At the same time, hospital emergency departments continue to be at capacity while the public health emergency is declared to be over.
The key to meeting these demands? Innovation. And innovation requires a careful evaluation of the existing issues in a particular healthcare setting, along with all possible solutions. New care models can ease pressures on staff while improving the patient experience.
In particular, three strategies have the potential to drive innovation in various healthcare settings:
- Prioritize human-centered design
- Bring employees into the conversation
- Expand your data analysis
These strategies approach the challenges across healthcare from different angles. Choosing where and how to make changes depends on multiple factors, including the organization’s culture, its goals, and the unique challenges it faces. Innovation for the sake of innovation is not practical. But, when creative, carefully tailored solutions are put in place to meet defined challenges, they benefit staff, patients, and the organization as a whole.
Prioritize human-centered design in healthcare
First: What is human-centered design in healthcare? Human-centered design is a focus on human needs in the process of delivering care. The goal of human-centered design is to lift the burden from staff and improve the patient experience. It includes physical products, as well as services, procedures, strategies, and policies. Using design to solve difficult issues engages patients and front-line staff while bringing together various types of data to build new models.
Approaching care through a human-centered lens means considering both the process of delivering care, as well as the outcomes of that process. That includes the physical products involved, the services and procedures, and the strategies and policies that can address the challenges facing staff and patients. For example, do you have vendor agreements in place for logistical reasons, or because they benefit patients and staff? Do you mandate certain processes because they make administration easier, or because they improve the workflow for front-line personnel? Are you using an integrated lens of quality, safety, and experience rather than an “add on” approach to improvement? Considering the humans involved in healthcare before the finances, logistics, administration, or any of the other important elements of care delivery, is the core of human-centered healthcare.
One innovation using human-centered design is implementing multidisciplinary teams to address challenges in healthcare. For example, after looking at the data and front-line staff’s day-to-day job responsibilities, an organization might find it prudent to bring in retired nurses—working remotely and/or part time—to assist floor nurses with medication reconciliation. Making sure that patients are taking the correct doses—and that none of the medications are contraindicated—is time-consuming and intensive work, but it’s necessary to keep patients safe. Retired nurses have the knowledge and skills needed to perform this task, without having to return to full-time, point-of-care roles. Expanding the care team to use retired nurses in certain capacities lifts a burden from the nurses providing care. At the same time, it can reduce errors and improve patient safety, because retired nurses can devote their full attention to medication reconciliation or similar tasks, when staff nurses are stretched thin.
Drive employee engagement by bringing staff into brainstorming conversations
Another innovative strategy for healthcare organizations is to engage front-line staff members in designing new models of care. Although designing solutions and innovating models of care often require a bird’s-eye view of the whole operation, the people in the middle of the forest—like nurses—can see a path that isn’t obvious at a higher level. Empowering staff to be part of the solution offers many benefits for nurses, patients, and the overall organization.
Engaging front-line healthcare workers is a common goal at healthcare organizations. But far too often, when staff members take the time to provide thoughtful feedback, they’re not updated on how that input is used. When employees are truly engaged in the process and shown what changes were made as a result of their input, the feedback loop closes. When staff know their efforts will be acknowledged, they’re far more likely to remain engaged in the process.
One example of a creative solution to lessen the pressures that healthcare workers face, while also increasing patient safety, is the use of cameras in patient rooms. While the cameras are monitored off-site, the staff member monitoring the camera feed contacts the staff on the floor when necessary.
Expand your data analysis to bring in more sources of feedback
Patient experience data is a critical source of information in the world of healthcare, and it makes sense to use that information to innovate care delivery.
Data can be drawn from finance, operations, local markets, vendors, payers, government sources, associations, and more. Taken together, the data paints a much richer, and more accurate, picture of the healthcare land.
While data can help articulate organizational goals, as well as measure progress toward those goals, it can also help leaders innovate models of care delivery. For example, by examining all of the available data regarding staffing—how many permanent positions are filled, how many travelers are working in an organization, how many departments are understaffed and putting it in the context of patient experience scores, organizations can start to see patterns that lead to a fresh perspective on their challenges. Patient experience and staffing are closely linked, and looking at the datasets together can provide clear, actionable insights into the connections between them—as well as point to solutions to address the challenges of each.
At Press Ganey, we have decades of experience helping organizations understand where innovations can best drive improvement. To learn more about how we can support you through the process of improving care models, reach out to a member of the strategic consulting team.