by Ngọc Anh Nguyễn / 13 minutes read

Healthcare Operations: Everything You Need To Know

Optimizing operations management plays a vital role for any organization in any industry.
In the healthcare industry, people’s lives are on the line. Management of healthcare operations effectively goes beyond boosting output and increasing revenue. Healthcare operations strategies and software facilitate the efficient provision and delivery of healthcare services to patients and communities to ultimately save and improve lives.

Why health care operations management matters

In terms of communities serves and the provision of care, the healthcare sector and healthcare software are highly diverse. Proper operations management is vital.

What is operations management?

Operations management is the process of setting up a company to make the best use of its resources in order to achieve efficiency, more particularly, the maximum level of efficiency. Analysis and improvement of corporate procedures and practices are the main objectives of operations management strategies and solutions. Because operations management begins with an analysis of the internal procedures and barriers present within a particular organization, it may be applied in any industry.

In healthcare practices and facilities, operations management is responsible for facility oversight, staff functionality and delivery of the best care possible.

What are healthcare operations?

Healthcare operations include the administrative, financial, and legal activities of a hospital, specialty practice, ancillary care provider, or remote health service center. Healthcare workers need to understand how operations work because, at the very least, they enable running the business.

Some examples of healthcare operations include patient case management, coordination of care within and without a practice, financial management, and medical practice human resources.

The healthcare sector and healthcare software are highly diverse (Source: Internet)
The healthcare sector and healthcare software are highly diverse (Source: Internet)

Understanding Operations Management in Healthcare

Healthcare Operations take a variety of many forms. It encompasses a spectrum of administration to delivery of care. Below are example areas that benefit from operations management. 

  • Clinical Care Management

The healthcare industry is a service industry. When an organization involved in this service industry makes a valuable attempt to standardize protocol, the performance is also improved.

Clinical care management (Source: Internet)
Clinical care management (Source: Internet)
  • Risk Management

Medical practices improve when providers mitigate and optimally manage risk, which will serve fruitful in two key areas; patient satisfaction and cost-effectiveness. Examples of risk in a healthcare setting range from patient or staff injuries to ballooning costs of expensive services. The hospitals can cut down their extravagant costs and also strengthen patient satisfaction by leveraging predictive analytics technology.

Risk management (Source: Internet)
Risk management (Source: Internet)
  • Financial management

The goal of healthcare operations management is to minimize and maximize expenses within a medical setting. Medical practices and hospitals have many issues controlling costs. Cost-related problems might result from giving out prescriptions for needless medications or treatments, from caring for patients who lack insurance, or from budget cuts that have an immediate impact on the salaries resources and technology available to medical staff.

Financial management (Source: Internet)
Financial management (Source: Internet)

What Is Operational Excellence?

The term operational excellence is associated with efficient healthcare operations

The improvement of clinical operations needs more time and resources devoted by healthcare providers. Businesses see financial gains and increases in employee productivity when chasing operational excellence. Clinical, operational excellence generally starts at the top that refers to the stakeholders., but depends on the mindset and behaviors of staff at every organizational level.

The medical staff can effectively respond to sudden changes in the administration by cultivating and upholding excellence. This will also not compromise their organization’s end goals.

When the hospitals achieve operational excellence, any change in process can result in increased operational efficiency, reduction of clinical variability and maintained or even improved care quality. That means the professionals will also sustain the industrial and technological trends, ensuring modernized practices that can provide the best care for patients, regardless of diagnosis, medical needs or the availability of clinical services.

The term operational excellence is associated with efficient healthcare operations. (Source: Internet)
The term operational excellence is associated with efficient healthcare operations. (Source: Internet)

Reduce Slacking With Healthcare Operations Solutions

Healthcare technology innovation drives industry trends that require the evolution and adaptation of established health care systems, protocols, rules, and strategies. Every time patient and industry expectations change, the field of health care operations management also changes.

Whatever type of healthcare operations software your facility chooses to use, it will help you address and resolve inefficiencies that are preventing your medical staff from providing patient care.

  • Capturing the Data

It is challenging when capturing and reporting on facility and patient data. Electronic health records and clinical communication software help a little, but if your practice isn't interoperable, you're left with several data sources that must be combined.

  • Reduction of clinical variability

Clinical variability has an impact on the delivery of care. It will ensure that inventory levels, supply expenditure, and workflow are accurate. When clinical variability is reduced, every aspect of a medical organization will benefit. These benefits will affect both staff and patients positively.

  • Productive EOC — The environment of care (EOC) in health care is made up of three elements

EOC comprises three cornerstones; physical space, the facility’s layout, equipment used to strengthen the support delivery of care and building operations. All three elements contribute to a positive patient experience, from pre-visit to treatment to post-visit.

Reduce Slacking With Healthcare Operations Solutions (Source: Internet)
Reduce Slacking With Healthcare Operations Solutions (Source: Internet)

Top 5 Operational Improvement Insights

  1. Healthcare Quality Enhancement

Over $1 trillion is spent each year in the US on recoverable healthcare waste. Fortunately, according to W. Edwards Deming's quality improvement theory, high-quality healthcare is intrinsically linked to improved financial results and waste reduction. In his opinion, better outcomes eliminate waste (i.e., any consumption of resources that doesn’t optimally benefit the patient), thereby reducing costs. 

To improve quality and process, and ultimately financial performance, an industry must first determine where it falls short of its speculative potential. Healthcare fails in five critical areas:

  • Massive variation in clinical practices.
  • High rates of improper care.
  • Unacceptable rates of preventable care-associated patient injury and death.
  • A striking inability to “do what we know works.”
  • Vast amounts of waste.

The key to Deming’s strategy is to have a holistic approach and look at the process as one and not as separate departments. In healthcare, this comprehensive system is known as team-based care, a collaborative, goal-oriented approach to patient-centered care with a direct impact on a health system’s bottom line.

  1. Adoption of Innovative Technologies

As healthcare is witnessing exponential growth, the health systems must also navigate the data and strive for improvement. Historically speaking, healthcare has been slow to adopt innovations and technologies.

Budgetary limitations, burdensome protocol requirements, and a lack of prior experience implementing changes effectively are all cited as causes of this. By using the appropriate techniques for comprehending the effects of technology and carrying out modifications on results, healthcare will accomplish this.

The health systems are provided with an eight-step improvement model that serves as a guide for putting scientific advancement into practice, evaluating the outcomes, and comprehending how their adjustments will affect the targeted outcomes:

  • Analyze the opportunity for improvement and define the problem.
  • Scope the opportunity and set goals.
  • Explore the root causes behind opportunities and set process aims.
  • Design interventions and plan initial implementation.
  • Implement interventions and measure results.
  • Monitor, adjust, and continually learn.
  • Diffuse and sustain.
  • Communicate quantitative and qualitative results.
  1. Improving the Capacity of Hospitals

The requirements of patient beds are usually exceeding the number of beds already available. Inadequate bed capacity has the following detrimental effects: postponed surgeries, lengthened stays, decreased patient and staff satisfaction, lengthened stays in the emergency department, and refusal of transfer patients.

Construction may be expensive and time-consuming, so businesses often turn to healthcare analytics to meet demand while preserving or enhancing patient outcomes and satisfaction. Four essential ideas can help organizations manage capacity better:

  • Analyze the data to understand the faults and target the solution.
  • Have the team of analytics work with units throughout the organization and also include leadership.
  • Make sure that leaders spend time with the team of operations to grasp hold of the workflow.
  • Understand that data analytics tools are dependent on the impact.
  • Focus on the capacity to leverage data effectively to assess the interventions.
  1. Healthcare Project Management Techniques

Healthcare leaders make a commitment to advance the process of strengthening patient care, cutting costs, and improving overall experience and happiness. As a result, the management of healthcare projects is now a crucial aspect of how the healthcare system functions. This is now a way to manage risks, control costs, and enhance project results.

Organizations can efficiently plan, organize, and complete activities while maximizing resource use by utilizing project management approaches. Healthcare professionals can enhance the application of project management approaches for different processes in addition to industry-specific standards.

  1. Project Planning

When putting up outcomes improvement programs and setting up the teams that make them successful, there is a formula for success. When strategic projects are launched with proper planning, framework, and workforce, long-term sustenance can be ensured. Such initiatives either never reach the necessary critical mass to produce noticeable improvements or fail to produce long-lasting results. There are seven easy stages to long-term success: 

  • Focus on outcomes (versus accountability).
  • Define goals and aim statements early and stick to them.
  • Assign an owner of the analytics (report or application) upfront.
  • Involve end users in the planning process.
  • Design the process to make doing the right thing easy.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of one-on-one training.
  • Engage a project champion.
Top 5 Operational Improvement Insights (Source: Internet)
Top 5 Operational Improvement Insights (Source: Internet)

The Value Of Healthcare Operations

Healthcare operational improvement projects are customarily additional responsibilities for the team members. They help in the accomplishment of the strategic objectives of the company. These responsibilities are essential for enhancing healthcare results. This includes all departments, front-line staff, and administrative personnel.

Still, these individuals have complete responsibilities, including the improvement initiative. Leaders in the healthcare industry can choose the ideal guidelines for improving the work by examining tried-and-tested data-driven tactics and experiences.

Healthcare operational improvement projects are responsibilities for the team members (Source: Internet)
Healthcare operational improvement projects are the responsibilities for the team members (Source: Internet)

Present Trends In Healthcare Operations

Given the exponential growth in innovation, technology, and healthcare facilities, some current trends enable significant impacts. Some of them are listed below.

Healthcare institutions' decision-making is driven by data. Data is the force that leads to all of the decisions made in the healthcare industry today. According to an Oracle research of 333 C-level executives, 94% of them claim that their organization is currently gathering and handling more business data than it was a few years ago.

Despite the fact that all healthcare institutions must be ready to gather, store, and analyse this data, 40% of the healthcare executives gave themselves a “D” or an “F” rating regarding their readiness to handle the onslaught of data. The findings also revealed that 93% of executives surveyed believed their company was losing money—on average, 14% annually—because they were unable to adequately utilize data.

Finding the most effective, economical ways to collect and report on data for the facility's daily operations is the biggest challenge. Typically, a data-driven facilities management solution will be used for this. The use of this solution may simplify the use of data to track desired compliance-based inspections, testing and reporting on facility maintenance, and rounding to support a caring environment and facility readiness. Additionally, it will help with capital planning, budgeting, and ineffective operations management.

Any organization today must take preparation for emergencies. For a hospital, preparing for small-scale accidents and natural disasters is insufficient. Every hospital must have comprehensive preparations available in case of an emergency, such as a mass casualty incident (MCI).

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Suggests that facilities’ emergency management programs include:

  • Hazard identification: Identify and list any hazards that carry the potential to affect the facility, both indirectly and directly.
  • Hazard mitigation: Take preventive steps to lessen or completely eliminate the possibility that the facility will be harmed by the hazards identified.
  • Preparedness: Create a thorough strategy to accommodate staff, patients, and visitors when the opportunity arises.
  • Response: Outline and go over the actions staff members must do before (in the event of a threat), during, and after an incident.
  • Recovery: Create plans for actions and initiatives before, during, and after an incident to help the institution return to normal.
  • Patient engagement: With the increase in the use of technology through social media, blogs, websites, etc., patients have access to reviews and transparency in the charges, ratings of the quality of care, and more. This drives the mindset of the patients to consumers.
  • Cost reduction: The consolidation of specialized care facilities and the use of cost-cutting consultants are only two examples of the ongoing efforts made by healthcare organizations to reduce unnecessary costs. A good estimate of the hospital's facilities' spending should always be available to an operations manager. Costs for labor, materials, and production are included in this. It also includes expenses for individual assets, capital investments, system-level costs, and costs associated with energy management (using benchmarked data).

Future Of Healthcare Operations

According to a IDC Health Insights report, 20% of healthcare organizations will implement blockchain by 2020. The initiatives to use blockchain as a permanent and shared log of online transactions or exchanges have the support of business and government parties. This should simplify healthcare processes.

Due to ongoing issues with data standardization and security, stakeholders in the healthcare business are wary of deploying new technologies due to security concerns and existing problems with data standardization. These concerns might prevent them from moving forward with blockchain solutions. Healthcare organizations would benefit from resolving the issues that hold them back from progressing.

In order to actively use the technology for operations management and patient identity services, healthcare companies wish to go beyond pilot initiatives. Blockchain technologies will begin to be adopted by healthcare institutions, which will enhance interoperability.

Various businesses, such as providers, payers, pharmacies, and clinical researchers, would have access to blockchain records so they could communicate data in a consistent way. This will assist in compiling cutting-edge approaches to the interchange of medical data.

Future of healthcare operations (Source: Internet)
Future of healthcare operations (Source: Internet)

In short, Healthcare Operations play a significant role in supporting the core functions of administrative, financial, legal, and quality enhancement activities essential to running the business.

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Ngọc Anh Nguyễn

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Since my major in university is Marketing, I always grasp the chance to improve my skills to become an all-rounded Marketer in the future. This job, to some extent, has brought me a lot of knowledge about multiple areas, which will be beneficial to my study career. In my free time, I'm into reading and watching classic movies. My favorite genre of all time is romantic comedy.

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