Electronic Medical Records can’t cut it alone; Healthcare organizations turn to Process Excellence to fill efficiency gap

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The past 10 days have been monumental for Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system providers and users. Last Tuesday the 13th July the notion of "meaningful use" was clarified, clearing the way for healthcare providers across the nation to tap into a potential $27 Billion of government funding provided they can demonstrate their ability to adopt these systems to maximum utility. Coupled with the deadline set by the Obama administration of 2015 to demonstrate this, the policy is going to significantly benefit the both the providers of such systems in the near future and of course the patients themselves.

Ensuring essential support in the wake of the upcoming healthcare reforms the adoption of EMR systems will aid healthcare providers to provide safe and high quality care as they tackle the challenge of increased patient numbers.

"If you want to improve the quality of care, you need to be able to accurately measure what's going on," Health Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius has said. "You want to promote greater coordination among doctors. You need to quickly move health information to wherever it's needed at the appropriate time."

This improvement is essential if the US healthcare system is to continue to function under the pressure of increased patients in the wake of the reforms, but Tejas Gandhi reminds health care providers that "technology is only the enabler." The Assistant Vice President of the Management Engineering Department at Virtua Health has been heavily involved with the implementation of their Electronic Medical Records System coupled with their Process Improvement program.

"Implementation of Electronic Medical Records is one piece of the puzzle," claims Gandhi, "the actual process piece is also essential and so process improvement methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma must be applied to guarantee these efficiencies are maximized."

Gandhi’s approach is not a unique one, across the Healthcare sector there is a move towards the creation of Process Improvement Strategies and Electronic Medical records are form essential aspects of the overall plans. But EMRs are not the end, they are the means. The common goal is increased efficiency within the running of each part of the organization.

Organizations across the US are starting to see the value of this approach with evidence provided by the creation of communities such as the Healthcare Process Improvement Network (H-PIN). Created with the sole purpose of improving process efficiency, H-PIN’s Mission statement is "the promotion of Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement and Operational Excellence philosophies within the Healthcare sector to ensure the continued provision of safe, efficient and high quality patient care."

September 29th and 30th will see the H-PIN’s Annual General Meeting bring together the leaders in the sector. Representatives from the Hospital Corporation of America and the Iowa Health System will join Gandhi to work towards a solution for the future of the sector, and no doubt, Gandhi’s presentation on EMRs will be of considerable interest considering the recent announcements.

Throughout all the change evident in the US’s Healthcare sector, one thing is clear; the use of EMRs is on the rise. Charlie Jarvis, a vice president at NextGen Healthcare, expects to see "a 10%, maybe 12% growth in electronic health record adoption over the next few years." A move that could have a substantial and positive impact on the efficiency of the healthcare systems in the US but it needs to be remembered that technology and process improvement need to go hand in hand to realize the full benefits.


Editor’s Note:

The Healthcare Process Improvement Network run by Six Sigma and Process Excellence IQ provides Quality, Operations and Process Improvement functions across the healthcare industry with access to essential information surrounding the application of Lean, Six Sigma and Process Improvement methodologies.

For more information or to download free articles, podcasts and interviews go to http://www.h-pin.net/