New Year’s resolution: An ounce of prevention

Jan. 3, 2020 / By Sheldon Barlow

Out with 2019 and in with the new year! The new year has the anticipation of a fresh start, a new beginning. The process of reflection and goal setting, such as making a New Year’s resolution, is a worthwhile and potentially therapeutic activity. As Fitzhugh Dodson stated, “goals that are not written down are just wishes,” but writing it down with no action plan or accountability is equally fruitless.

As an example, we all know that we need to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get an average of eight hours of sleep a night, avoid stress, meditate regularly…and the list goes on and on. We know what we should be doing, but the rigors of life can often distract us from achieving these ideals. Individuals will often hire a personal trainer to assist them in getting back on track. Gyms experience a huge uptick in memberships at the beginning of each year, but the majority of those new members will not be seen again after the end January. This example serves to show that certain goals require additional support.

In a very similar way, healthcare organizations can often benefit from similar coaching to help find opportunities for improvement, identify risks, realign with organizational goals, and put plans in place to address pain points or identify opportunities. Taking a detailed look at compliance policies and procedures, prospective and or retrospective reviews, and reviewing and standardizing workflows can be the ounce of prevention that puts your organization on track in 2020. Below is an overview of how these improvements can be implemented.

Steps for Improvement:

1. Analytics: Understanding data is essential to knowing what areas to target for improvement. Bad analysis from the start will ensure that expected outcomes will ultimately be missed.

2. Establishing a team: Putting the right cross-functional team together is vital. Each group needs to be accurately represented and their processes outlined and understood.

3. Training staff: After the discovery process has taken place, education programs are developed and staff become more unified and aware of their contributions to the overall process.

4. Post benchmark data: Ongoing benchmark analysis is essential for continued improvements.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Sheldon Barlow is an outpatient pro fee consultant with 3M Health Information Systems.