How to Overcome Major Obstacles and End Up Better and Stronger

One Louisiana health system’s journey

Over the past several weeks, we have seen a number of natural disasters in the US. Could your organization survive an unprecedented natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, and eventually turn that into something positive? That’s what the Advisory Board’s “Lessons from the C-Suite” asked of Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest health system.

Immediately following the storm, Thomas says that Ochsner and its board realized that to even maintain operations they had to think through how to get evacuated staff back into the city to relieve staff that was onsite during and following the storm. Beyond those immediate logistics, Thomas says their organization had another team that worked on their “go-forward” strategy, which included outreach to physicians to see if they were returning to the city and if they needed a place to practice. Ultimately, Thomas says that the devastation of the hurricane strengthened both Ochsner’s culture and resolve to restore and expand healthcare in New Orleans and the region.

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Supply Chain: Essential to Improve Patient Outcomes

Clinical improvements—the key to making patient interactions widely successful—“requires getting the right products, services and capabilities into the hands of clinicians and the supply chain is essential in driving scalable, sustainable improvements in the health care system,” said a recent article in H&HN.

Recognizing the supply chain’s importance in overall success as an organization can lead to widespread benefits within healthcare. When organizations are looking for ways to make clinical improvements, it makes sense to involve supply chain early in the process because it “can expedite the adoption of meaningful medical advancements for better patient care.”

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The Benefits of Departmental Blurred Lines at Healthcare Organizations

Not too long ago, I wrote about how the role of healthcare CFOs have transformed from being “number crunchers” into strategic business partners within their organizations. A recent article in Becker’s Hospital CFO that focused on two specific healthcare CFOs who have more day-to-day involvement within their organizations, made me want to revisit and further explore this topic of cross-functional engagement.

With readmissions impacting reimbursement, Pamela Hess, CFO of Saint Thomas Midtown and Saint Thomas West hospitals notes that she has gotten far more involved in meetings and initiatives including quality and infection control. While these are not the places we traditionally think CFOs are involved, Hess says she has learned a lot.

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Lean Six Sigma Can Cut Wait Times in the ER

At MedSpeed we benefit from Lean Six Sigma (LSS). Lean Management is the ongoing effort to eliminate or reduce ‘waste’ and Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven method for eliminating defects in any process.

Early on, we adopted LSS as an integral part of our quality management system because the lean philosophy allows us to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Implementing LSS means we are able to create more value for customers with fewer resources.

And while the methods of LSS were originally developed within the context of manufacturing, they have been successfully applied to other industries, as we know from personal experience. A study earlier this year conducted by Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, looked at whether wait times in hospital emergency rooms/departments could be cut if hospitals utilized Lean Management and Six Sigma techniques.

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What if the Hospital of the Future is Not a Hospital?

What will the hospital of the future look like? Not that much like hospitals looked 10 years ago according to an article in HealthLeaders. That conclusion is probably not a huge surprise to those of us in healthcare who have seen the shift away from an inpatient setting as the primary care modality. And while inpatient care may still be the anchor of many health systems, its role in the continuum of care is dramatically changing.

Author Phil Betbeze writes that the hospital of the future will be “a cohesive amalgamation of plenty of outpatient modalities that represent growth in healthcare.” He goes on to point out that while this shift doesn’t mean new patient towers won’t be constructed, it does mean that any construction undertaken “will be based on adaptability, patient flow and efficiency gains.”

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In This Era of Big Data, Avoid Being Data Rich and Information Poor

We live in the era of “big data.” It’s a term we come across on a nearly daily basis. The biggest problem with big data—pardon the play on words—is that data alone without insight can leave you information poor.

Recently, at Becker’s Hospital Review 5th Annual Meeting, one of the keynote speakers, Toby Cosgrove, MD, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, touched on how his organization was dealing with big data through its spin-off Explorys, which ties together disparate healthcare data from providers, payers, care settings and EMRs. The goal of Explorys is to help the Cleveland Clinic and other healthcare organizations manage and make sense of big data: because data is only data, unless you know how to utilize it to make improvements.

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Integration is critically important, yet many healthcare organizations aren’t prepared

We are well aware that the healthcare industry is in a time of tremendous consolidation with a greater than 50% increase in consolidation just since 2009. Since that activity is expected to continue through 2014, we wanted to get a sense for how successfully hospitals and health systems have been at integrating new facilities. To do that, MedSpeed conducted a survey in conjunction with HealthLeaders Media’s Leadership Council.

The survey polled 138 senior leaders across the healthcare spectrum, including hospitals, health systems, physician practices and payer organizations. Of those surveyed, 73% said that physically integrating materials and supplies is either “critically important” or “important” to their organization’s success in providing quality care.

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ROI: Look Beyond Financial to the Intangible Benefits

I was very heartened by a conclusion drawn at the recent HealthLeaders’ CFO Exchange. Apparently, these healthcare CFOs together reached the conclusion that ROI is more than financial.

A report from that roundtable specifically discussed the implementation and costs associated with Electronic Health Records (EHR). One of the CFOs said, “It’s hard or nearly impossible to justify the investment needed for a state-of-the-art EHR with hard-dollar savings.” He went on to point out that to really look at the return on investment: “You have to look beyond that to the intangible benefits, the improvements in delivery of care and positioning your organization to be competitive in the future.”

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Prepared to Care

This week, May 12-18, is National Hospital Week. The American Hospital Association began celebrating National Hospital week more than 90 years ago to “celebrate the history, technology and dedicated professionals” in hospitals.

This year’s theme for National Hospital Week is “Prepared to Care.” The 60-second video that the AHA put together on their website, speaks to how those who work in hospitals are called to serve and care.

While we at MedSpeed are not officially part of a hospital, the role that our Logistic Service Representatives (LSRs) play is very much part of the hospital’s chain of care. Our LSRs have daily interaction with hospital staff members and their outstanding efforts show how dedicated and “prepared to care” they are.

This year, at the end of March—as sometimes happens here in the Midwest—there was a snowstorm that created terrible road conditions.  Our LSR, Rick Warburton was trying to maneuver around some of the other cars, but lost traction and ended up off the road. 

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If it’s not your core competency: Outsource it

This third installment stemming from the round table discussion with supply chain leaders that MedSpeed recently hosted is focused on outsourcing.

In our session, participants reiterated what we have heard in previous discussions: healthcare is their specialty, not transportation. Operating an in-house courier network or managing multiple third party couriers steals valuable time and resources from a health system’s ability to focus on its core competency of high quality patient care. Moreover, the shift towards outsourcing in order to become more nimble and to more effectively manage resources is thematically applicable to other non-core functions within the health system.

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