Improving operational efficiency in healthcare (2023)
Healthcare is a complex sector, subject to fast changes in medical practice as new treatments are developed as well as administrative bureaucracies and state involvement that can slow the adaptation of new technologies.
Many healthcare processes are often still manual, and the upgrade to digital must include considerations for patient safety as well as how robust the system is and how well it can scale over time and with changing data. However, the benefits of streamlining and improving processes while maintaining the same level of care can be considerable, reducing costs and improving efficiency within the healthcare system.
The impact of AI on healthcare
As artificial intelligence becomes more developed and accepted within many sectors, we are already seeing changes to the way that the healthcare industry is run.AI can be utilised to:
Inspect immense amounts of patient info, including medical images, and electronic health records.
- Identify potential health issues with greater precision and speed than ever before.
- Provide a truly personalised approach to medicine.
- Tailor treatments as well as assisting diagnosis and reducing the time before preventative healthcare interventions can be implemented.
This tailored approach can also potentially improve patient outcomes, as well as reducing the cost to both patient and healthcare provider - increasing the likelihood of effective treatments, and reducing the time taken to arrive at a solution.
Utilising process automation in AI
AI can also improve administrative tasks in healthcare, using process automation. These processes are often time-consuming and prone to human error, reducing the time available for staff to focus on patient care. By streamlining administrative tasks, healthcare providers can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and ultimately provide better patient care.
Whilst AI and automation can deliver these enhancements to the healthcare sector, the key consideration must always be the patients - including their health data and rights to privacy, as well as treatment and health outcomes. The implementation of new technology via IT or Ops leaders must be sympathetic to these needs, as well as an effective method of improving efficiency.
Improving operational efficiency in healthcare
There are a number of key areas that promote operational efficiency improvements for the healthcare sector, scalable to individual healthcare providers such as hospitals as well as larger healthcare organisations and provider groups.
1. Focus on consistency
Fixing critical processes first provides a strong basis for further change. Ensuring significant progress, rather than a patchwork approach that deals with individual issues as and when they occur, find the critical points and bottlenecks in the critical processes that will have the most impact, focusing on the source of the issue rather than just its immediate effect.
2. Improve processes, not just working conditions
Focusing on improving the way people work with processes, not just staff or working conditions, can reduce the reliance on personnel management to deliver results with toolkits that are often out of date or suffering from patchwork improvement. Operations leaders utilising process mapping can create a model of improvement that addresses the fundamental working conditions of a healthcare facility, as well as involving staff in identifying issues and developing improvements.
3. Get organisational buy in
Any process changes need to be adopted by the people on the ground, and lengths should be taken to provide continued support and training. Strong change management leadership and strategy will pave the way for operational efficiency improvements. After all, establishing new processes and updating critical elements cannot realistically succeed in delivering change without proper employee onboarding and training - affecting both the success of new processes, as well as any treatments or administration that those processes are intended to support.
For operations leaders, the only way more effective process management can occur is when communication and training happen from the top down. The NHS also suggests this approach: “Improving value and efficiency requires organisational and system wide multi-professional collaboration. Organisations can only deliver effective patient care within available resources by creating an environment where working relationships between teams are thriving.”
4. Identify barriers and siloed areas of operations
A unified healthcare system is a key element for improving efficiency. According to the NHS, “Fragmented care, where healthcare organisations work in silos, leads to poorer outcomes and inefficiencies. The move to a more collaborative, integrated approach to designing, planning and delivering health services across local systems with the establishment of integrated care systems (ICSs) provides the NHS with the opportunity to deliver better value.”
Orchestration in healthcare
Orchestration is the biggest lever to improving operational efficiency. Consolidating work, and an emphasis on streamlining and standardising processes can remove bottlenecks and speed up productivity. For IT and operations leaders within the healthcare sector, the orchestration of care has been essential for coordinating and developing positive change - utilising data to identify problem processes, and create new workflows that can be deployed across national (and international) health organisations.
The NHS say, “The core to successful orchestration of care is personalization. Specifically, this means that well-orchestrated care needs to account for the fact that it has to bring together siloed departments and processes along a single, patient-centric continuum.
This is harder than it sounds, as that continuum is by definition going to change based on the specifics of the patient. Sometimes departments will be tightly coupled for specific patients, in other cases they would be skipped altogether if it is the right thing to do.
As a result, the ability to personalise the orchestration layer to both the needs of the patient, but also the specifics of how the care team works, is critical: This is not a one-size-fits-all.”
Enate can help you to run operations like a well-oiled machine. Our end-to-end orchestration platform wraps around your tech stack, automates tasks for greater efficiency and enables you to track and manage your workflows all in one place.
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