Workflow Design, Strong Leaders Key to Improving Health Care IT Quality: ASQ Survey
Designing workflows that improve efficiency and technology adoption should be a top priority to help health care organizations strengthen the quality of their technology implementation, according to a new poll of U.S. health care quality improvement professionals conducted by ASQ.
ASQ, celebrating 70 years in 2016, is the leading global authority on quality in all fields, organizations and industries, including health care, and is the world’s largest network of quality resources and experts.
According to the online poll of more than 170 ASQ members in the health care quality profession, 78 percent said improving workflow efficiency is the No. 1 way organizations can improve the quality of health care technology implementation. Seventy-one percent say the priority should be nurturing strong organizational leaders who champion healthcare technology initiatives. The North American health care information technology market is forecast to reach $31.3 billion by 2017, increasing from $21.9 billion in 2012, according to recent studies.
Survey participants also ranked the following technologies as having the most impact on patient experience and care coordination:
- Incorporation of wearable sensors, remote patient monitoring and other caregiver collaboration tools (71 percent)
- Smart phones, tablets and applications providing a wealth of information for physicians and other clinicians (69 percent)
- Online communications along every step of patient process (e.g., website, registration, payment) (69 percent)
Hurdles to Technology Implementation
Many of the factors that improve health care technology also have hurdles that make implementation prohibitive. Survey respondents said the following hurdles are “very difficult” to overcome by health care organizations as they work to implement technology that will improve quality, efficiency and reduce cost.
- Resistance to change from physicians and staff due to perceived impact on time/workflow and unwillingness to learn new skills (70 percent)
- High costs of implementing IT infrastructure and services and unproven return on investment (64 percent)
- Problems with complex new devices, poor interface between multiple technologies and the haphazard introduction of new devices that could cause patient errors (61 percent)
“We in health care know that there are always drawbacks to technology. While not a panacea, technology can help engage patients, increase access to care, help improve safety, and make data collection easier,” said Susan Peiffer, chair of ASQ’s Healthcare Division and performance improvement specialist at Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) Western Wisconsin Division.
Respondents surveyed ranked the following aspects of health care technology as having the greatest impact on reducing the overall cost to the organization and maximizing the organization’s return on investment.
- Remote patient monitoring reducing the need for office visits and improving patient compliance (69 percent)
- Patient engagement platforms that encourage patients to get more involved in the long-term management of their own health conditions (68 percent)
- Electronic medical record/electronic health records that eliminate time-consuming tasks (68 percent)
Other possible quality improvement solutions offered by respondents to strengthen the use of technology within health care organizations include:
- Embed a quality expert into every department in order to learn user needs before determining what type of technology is implemented. If users are involved, they are more likely to have a positive view of the change instead of feeling like it’s another problem added to their workload.
- Improve available software with easier navigation, more detailed organization of medical record types, more widespread use of file transfer protocol (FTP) servers and the ability to upload records to requesting facilities as well as a universal notification system indicating the status of a medical record.
- Create healthcare apps for the use of professionals, e.g., a medication calculator, implementing clinical pathways on mobile apps that can be easily used by doctors, and medication reconciliation can also be done via technology.
- Use voice of the customer techniques to better fit improvement approaches to the stakeholders who are being asked to change.
“Just as technology continues to evolve, we will continue to improve how we use technology and how we integrate it into our interactions with patients,” Peiffer said.
ASQ quality improvement experts work in a diverse range of healthcare organizations from hospitals to public health departments. Quality improvement methods have proven increasingly successful in health care organizations.