In the 20th century, the science and industry of medical treatment was—as it is today—focused on achieving good performance. However, the definition and metrics that were used to measure the performance of a medical facility like a clinic or hospital were very different from today. In the past, in an effort to keep things simpler and more closely aligned with things like operational efficiency, it was finances that were often used. The more money a clinic or hospital made, the better people thought of its performance.
Then things changed, and it all started with an analysis from the Institute of Medicine.
The Institute of Medicine no longer goes by that name and is now known as the National Academy of Medicine, but in 1999, they submitted a report with a shocking conclusion. Despite the US being a developed, first world nation, safety of patients was not as high as it theoretically should have been. A yearly average of 98,000 people died, in hospitals, due to preventable errors, human or otherwise.
It was a wake-up call to the entire field of medicine, and it brought about a change of perception, not just in the metrics used to measure performance, but in the approach people took to running medical facilities. In a way, it brought the entire industry back to the core of what the field was about, which is taking care of sick people.
And so today, after years of transitioning, 21st century American medical institutions now have a more complex, ultimately more accurate means of measuring the quality of a hospital or clinic. It falls under the metric of the “patient experience.”
The Other Side
One of the things that was quickly discovered as more research was conducted was that while facilities with good finances didn’t always have a good patient experience, facilities with a good patient experience always had good finances. There were a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most common findings was that a focus on providing a good patient experience brought about many holistic or multi-disciplinary benefits.
For example, by focusing on the patient experience, one of the chief considerations that was addressed was safety. However, by focusing on patient safety, this inevitably meant that fewer errors were made. Fewer errors meant reduced costs, and patient satisfaction generally went up, which encouraged repeat visits for future diagnoses or treatments. In order to be more effective, efficiency also went up, which had benefits across the board, both operationally and fiscally.
Of course, seeing these kinds of improvements is not as simple a matter as saying “Let’s focus on patient experience rather than financial performance.” The patient experience involves many different components, which is why it’s important to do the proper analysis of your current operations. Once qualified experts have outlined areas that could be improved, that’s when you start the real work.
For example, one of the areas where your patient experience may be suffering might not be in the actual treatment, but in what happens afterward with payment. You may have excellent medical treatment that is brought down by making the payment experience difficult or tedious. In this case, perhaps looking at elements of your revenue cycle management might yield good results.
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