One of the key aims of healthcare improvement, identified by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), centers around how healthcare organizations can optimize efficiencies. Healthcare facilities across the globe deploy a variety of frameworks such as Lean Six Sigma, Robust Process Improvement (RPI) and change management processes to improve workflows, minimize waste and drive safer, more efficient care. There are many ways to frame “waste” within the context of healthcare – time, ideas, processes, systems, physical material disposal and capital are all examples. Through focusing on finding efficiencies and minimizing misuse, healthcare facilities can create lasting organizational change that not only saves time and money but firmly places the patient at the center of all quality improvement. Here are three ways to help minimize waste and drive efficiencies.
1. Mitigate defects to improve quality of care
Medical mistakes, process or system failures and instances of misdiagnosis all contribute to defect waste in healthcare. Defect waste can look like hospital acquired conditions including blood clots, infections, medication, surgical errors and preventable allergic reactions. This challenge is becoming increasingly important as payers transition to a pay for performance model that rewards and penalizes outcomes. To help reduce defect waste, organizations can benefit from tools and programs that help them take a proactive approach to risk prevention. The RLDatix suite, dedicated healthcare management software and training solutions, is built to drive safety and reduce risk. A robust safety software such as RLDatix not only tracks incidents but equips you with the tools you need to effectively learn from them and implement strategies to move towards proactive risk prevention.
Reducing defect waste in healthcare isn’t a singular act, rather it’s a continuous process of identifying where harm has occurred, learning from the contributing factors that led to that harm and implementing lasting solutions to promote the safety of patients, families and staff.
A learning culture aims to shed light on defects, so care teams can learn from errors and work to prevent them from happening again. The Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR) toolkit supports open and honest communication with patients, families and frontline staff following an adverse event. Dr. Tim McDonald, Chief Patient Safety and Risk Officer at RLDatix, explains that there is an abundance of evidence showing that “using an open communication and resolution approach to patient harm is associated with improved patient safety processes, including incident reporting and reduced medical liability outcomes such as statistically significant reductions in numbers of lawsuits, legal fees and settlement costs.” Reducing defect waste in healthcare isn’t a singular act, rather it’s a continuous process of identifying where harm has occurred, learning from the contributing factors that led to that harm and implementing lasting solutions to promote the safety of patients, families and staff.
2. Save time and energy waste, promote staff potential with digital tools
Clinicians are balancing a multitude of tasks daily. Between caring for patients, adhering to hygiene and COVID-19 guidelines and helping fellow staff members when possible, it's increasingly important for staff to maximize time and energy. Leveraging a digital solution to help drive safety huddles can help teams reduce the time needed to record and distribute information shared during these meetings. A tool such as RL6:Safety Huddles can also help organizations reduce the waste of staff potential. Using the software, staff can be more engaged in preventing harm and feel encouraged to contribute their ideas for improvement. Safety Huddles can also be an opportunity to celebrate good catches and patient safety advances. Leadership can generate reports that identify huddle members who have received recognition from their peers. This can allow leadership to personally follow-up with those individuals, thank them for their contributions and identify where their talents can be best used to solve problems within the organization.
When frontline staff have questions or need guidance while delivering care, they don’t have time to waste. Accessing their organization’s policies and procedures shouldn’t be a concern. RLDatix PolicyStat is built with powerful search capabilities that help staff quickly and easily find the policies and procedures they need, when they need them most. A policy management tool also supports time-saving efforts for organization as they prepare for surveys and audits. Rather than searching through paper files scattered across departments or a shared drive with outdated files, a digital policy management tool helps organizations keeps all important documents up-to-date, in a centralized location and readily accessible.
Related: 5 ways to evolve your safety huddle program to better communicate your patient safety priorities
3. Establish a plan to safely dispose of healthcare waste
Waste from healthcare activities can have a significant impact on the health of our communities and the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 85% of waste resulting from healthcare activities is general non-hazardous waste, while the remaining 15% can be categorized as hazardous waste that has potential to be infectious, chemical or radioactive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 85% of waste resulting from healthcare activities is general non-hazardous waste, while the remaining 15% can be categorized as hazardous waste that has potential to be infectious, chemical or radioactive.
Untreated healthcare waste that is disposed of in landfills can result in the contamination of drinking, surface and ground waters which disproportionally impacts those in lower socioeconomic communities. The WHO writes that, “health-care waste is often not separated into hazardous or non-hazardous wastes in low-income countries making the real quantity of hazardous waste much higher.” If healthcare waste is treated with chemical disinfectants, those same chemicals can release into the environment if they are not handled, stored and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
Organizations can take steps to mitigate the negative effects of this waste by developing organization-wide strategies and systems that promote the safe and environmentally sound handling of hazardous healthcare materials. To start, you can develop policies and procedures specifically addressing the actions and steps staff must take when disposing of healthcare waste –– this is important in keeping health workers and patients safe from hazardous materials. A robust policy and procedure management solution helps organizations effectively and efficiently communicate important information across all departments, so everyone is up to speed on organizational processes and expectations. Well established policies and procedures allow organizations to operate more efficiently, save money and enable team members to refocus their time and energy on patient care.
Related: Driving Safety & Compliance: The Role of Up-to-Date Policies & Procedures
Maximizing efficiencies, minimizing waste to support safety
All healthcare organizations have a different approach to maximizing efficiencies and minimizing waste. Reducing occurrences of waste – whether it be wasted time, resources, ideas or material waste – enables organizations to redirect their time, energy and money to support a safe environment for both patients and health workers. Mitigating defects to improve care, saving time and energy with digital tools and establishing a plan to dispose of healthcare waste are all strategies to start with and build upon.
Have an effective strategy to increase efficiencies? Share yours below!