We are all familiar with the term performance improvement as it’s used a lot in businesses and organizational structure research. To recap; Performance improvement is the process of measuring the output of a particular business process or procedure, then modifying the process or procedure to increase the output, increase efficiency, or increase the effectiveness of the process or procedure. Knowing what it means and its importance it then goes without saying that performance improvement in the healthcare industry is very important.

Healthcare Performance Improvement and performance improvement initiatives is important because it plays a major role in the improvement of clinical outcomes and patient experiences. It also helps in the reduction of organizational costs. If the healthcare performance improvement initiatives and efforts are not well executed, the become a source of great loss of money, time, manpower and resources to the healthcare organization with no real or sustainable improvements.

Experience has shown that the major reason why healthcare performance improvement initiatives tend to fail in the healthcare industry is that most organizations see it as a one-off event with a set start and beginning as opposed to it being an interconnected process of various projects all working in tandem and each feeding from and improving on the other.

So how do we avoid this mistakes? Below I’ve highlighted six steps that can be taken to ensure the successful implementation of a performance improvement program in a healthcare organization.

  • Integrate Performance Improvement into Your Strategic Objectives

As mentioned above, a healthcare organization is a complex, adaptive system where interactions and relationships of different components simultaneously affect and are shaped by the system. As such, it is important for performance improvement to be integrated into the healthcare organization’s strategic objectives and not be a stand-alone project. Strategic objectives such as focusing on population health management, or developing a cardiovascular center of excellence, all require performance improvement in order to be successful. Integrating performance improvement also helps avoid wasting time, effort, and money on programs that may yield little overall benefit.

  • Use Analytics to Unlock Data and Identify Areas of Opportunity

Healthcare data analytics is required for any sustainable performance improvement initiative. It forms the foundation of discussion and informs decisions. Yet while healthcare organizations have mountains of clinical, claims, financial, operational, patient experience and other data, most of it is locked away in point solutions built for a specific purpose. Performance improvement requires an analytics system that integrates the organization’s data sources and that facilitates quick and easy data sharing. Only with appropriate analytics can an organization identify specific areas of opportunity among strategic areas of focus.

  • Prioritize programs using a combination of analytics

Successfully improving clinical outcomes and streamlining operations requires a strong organizational commitment and changes in culture, organizational structure, staff education, and workflow processes. This can be done using a readiness assessment. A readiness assessment helps the organization determine how ready the teams are to accept change, to estimate what, if any, impact there is on staffing and the potential impact on front-line caregivers. Understanding the strategic objectives and integrating results from a readiness assessment, along with the analytics, help the organization prioritize which care families or clinical services, to begin with.

  • Define the Performance Improvement Program’s Permanent Teams

The organization will require permanent performance improvement teams to review and analyze data, define evidence-based and best practices, and monitor ongoing result. Improvement teams should be created to coincide with an organization’s internal structure.

  • Use a best practice system to define program outcomes and define interventions

The focus of performance improvement initiatives for many organizations tends to be on low-performance outliers—that is, on identifying instances where costs are much higher and outcomes substantially poorer than averages among caregivers. However, a more effective approach is to identify those practices that consistently lead to the best outcomes and promote them, with evidence-based guidelines, to improve outcomes across the board.

  • Estimate the ROI

As the guidance team sets priorities for performance improvement, the team also should take time to estimate the potential return on investment  (ROI) for each initiative based on available information. The team can start by identifying organizational costs and estimating benefits using tools such as industry benchmarks for similar projects, vendor case studies, and internal estimates. Most organizations will need to educate their clinicians, operations and finance departments on the value of sharing data and working together on interdisciplinary teams, rather than keeping everything in silos.