Performance Improvement and Measurement in the Healthcare Industry

Constantly increasing performance level is one of the aims of the healthcare industry. Healthcare Performance Improvement has been at the forefront of healthcare researchers for decades now and continues to be explored. This is because besides treating sick patients, improving the health of the entire population is also a goal- it is or should be, the overall long term goal of the healthcare industry.

Healthcare Performance Improvement

In order to improve performance, you have to first be able to measure it. Carrying out performance measurement in a healthcare organization is a great way to achieving overall improvement, and when done properly it can improve behaviour and motivate the staff. The older systems of performance measurement practices, tried to measure performance on every step in a process which often led to an increase in overhead cost. It usually ended up as a costly, convoluted, time-consuming process that led to staff being micromanaged and incorrect information being passed around. Same goes for not having a broad enough measurement practice as it gives no material change to the organization and whatever resource and time is out into it ends up being a waste.

The prefered approach to performance management and improvement is to design a performance measurement program that emphasizes on long term benefits for the whole organization. This kind of measurement plan bases all staff measurements on desired outcomes as translated from the organization’s long-term vision and strategic plan, and, not be one intended to institute measures for every incremental step that encompasses every business process. This helps the healthcare organization’s management team plan a performance measurement and improvement initiative that is neither too big and convoluted nor too small and inconsequential to actual improvement. Hence they can implement a system that is simple to use for both hospital management and staff, alike.  

Healthcare Performance Improvement

Further, instituting a program that measures results, and, not effort, will likely drive more extensive business transformation because staff will be better motivated to change the way that they work in order to deliver the business results that garner reward. It also takes away micromanagement from the equation which usually leads staff to be less motivated. As a result, greater overall organizational alignment is achieved because succeeding transformation will be aligned with the desired results that came from the vision and strategic plan of the enterprise.

One of the first steps to performance improvement is making a performance improvement plan. And one of the first steps to making a performance improvement plan is to document the areas of performance that actually need to be improved upon. The documentation of this plan must be accurate, objective, and free from sentiment of those making the plan. It should also have a standard and uniform structure across all departments of the organization for the sake of transparency and to eliminate bias.

Healthcare Performance Improvement

The format of a performance improvement plan documentation varies from organization to organization and from industry to industry, but the standard should include the following components:

  • Employee information.
  • Relevant dates.
  • Description of performance discrepancy or gap.
  • Description of expected performance.
  • Description of actual performance.
  • Description of consequences.
  • Plan of action.
  • Signatures of the manager and the employee.
  • Evaluation of the plan of action and overall performance improvement plan.

How to Measure Performance Improvement Properly

Healthcare Performance Improvement

Start measuring from the departmental level. As we mentioned above, in performance measurements, you have to know what to measure and what not to measure. In many healthcare organizations, different departments have different ideas of what needs to be measure and what they can do without. The best approach is to identify what these are within each department with the help of people within the department.

Department staff no more intimately what they need and often have unique insights on how process within their departments can be improved.  In many organizations you find that one department will determine what they should measure for example, average hours an employee works each week and another department will determine that these are not important areas to measure; they may determine that measuring an employee’s output or extent to which their work performance is met, to be of greater importance. If the uniqueness of the needs of each department are not taken into consideration, the organization misses out on getting an overall performance measurement with performance improvement opportunities.

Simplify Your Performance Measures

Again, a convoluted performance measurement plan will do more harm than good. organizations that over complicate their performance measures find it more difficult to measurably know the extent to which they’ve realized their goals. When a healthcare organization can successfully measure their process they get superior results. Organizations need to understand that they don’t have to measure everything; keep to the essentials and keep in mind that performance measures must be defined for each level of performance accountability. The activities and processes necessary for systematically defining, deploying and linking measures throughout an entire organization need to be well-timed and carefully orchestrated. This will involve the engagement of senior hospital executives, managers at all levels, technology support and front-line employees (i.e reception desk workers, assistants, call center operators etc).

Measure the Right Things

Healthcare Performance Improvement

So we talked about simplifying the performance management process. Well you can’t do this properly if you don’t know what are the important things to be measured. You need to measure the right things. For example; use the measurements of the impact on customers, the bottom-line, the sales, the profits and so on.  This will determine which organizational processes are the key business processes and which are the ones that support or fit into, the key business processes. Identify all of the key business processes throughout the organization.

Ensure that their performance measurements are measuring the right things so that management can create a “desired results or outcomes” list of key organizational performance measures.Performance outcomes are more important measures of work than output.  Outcomes are benefits or changes that result from the work being performed. They are the measurements of work performed that makes a difference to the organization and is in keeping with achieving the strategic organizational and departmental objectives. This work performed will be the key business processes. The best approach is to establish criteria to determine the key business processes.