by Chris Tomlinson, Enterprise Vice President, Radiology/ Imaging, Clinical Lab & Pathology, Emergency & Hospital Medicine Service Lines Jefferson Health
by Donnie McLaughlin, Associate Vice President, Hospital Clinical Operations UT Southwestern University Hospitals & Clinics
Pillar #6: Information Sources
Information is power, as the saying goes. Information can lead to better operations, or it can divide people who tend to hold beliefs outside the message the information contains. The ability for team members to verify authenticity and validity is a continuous struggle. I think we all can agree that information is powerful. As leaders in imaging, we are always looking to improve operations, utilization, access, productivity, and patient and/or financial outcomes. A leader who understands how to “lean into” benchmarks and review the list of comparable departments can navigate and prevent potential disasters.
Take, for example, the emergence of a new labor productivity tool in your institution. On the surface, this is a tool to benchmark your department’s worked hours per unit of service against a database of your peers. However, when your leadership states “this new labor productivity system says you are over budget in IR (Interventional Radiology) by 6 FTEs”, that can become problematic because you only have 8 FTEs in the department. Information benchmarked against the wrong peer set, combined with other staff such as nurses, or included with other labor that may not be attributable to the department can lead to catastrophic staffing decisions if not correctly confirmed and compared.
There is an infinite amount of data and information regarding best practices in the medical field. There are innovative approaches to guarantee information supplied is accurate and usable to ensure information seekers select appropriate sources for decisions made. Confirming the validity of a process improvement project is imperative before aligning your organization’s operations to a new venture or benchmark.
FTE UTILIZATION AND LABOR PRODUCTIVITY
One of the most costly and impactful modifications to a division comes with adjusting productive salaried employees to support your operations during the defined hours of operations. Before executing, understanding the overall impact and long-term effect of these changes is essential. There are thousands of reference points, papers, and other resources available on how to align your staff. The ability to understand, validate, and maximize this information is required.
There is an abundance of vendors and companies in the market who provide productive salaries, employee and labor utilization, and productivity analysis. These companies utilize propriety systems to provide real-time data during their engagements. The conundrum is how to select the appropriate company for your organization and how to authenticate the validity of their information. One company may be an excellent option for one organization but not align well with another.
A review committee of like-minded peers is an excellent starting point for selection. This will allow the committee to interact with the vendors and gain valuable insight into their values, goals, and overall direction. This committee could also serve in various capacities such as the selection group for the project charter, end results, and engagement groups for the length of the contract.
OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY AND BENCHMARKS
While many companies offer consulting or advisory services (Advisory Board, SG2, Vizient), we also have our industry partners. Just imagine the information our Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), service providers, payors, and vendors have about our institutions. Many of these partners have sought to monetize this information and sell it back to us as a solution, but many will provide it at no cost.
- OEMs have considerable access to industry data around technology trends, population growth, modality growth to help our long-range planning, rationalize our assets in a market, or gain buy-in from our institutions on where to make capital investments.
- Service organizations have utilization data as well as sequence or machine-level data to help a radiology department maximize the utilization of a modality or benchmark-like equipment within a fleet.
- Peer organizations like the AHRA, AARAD, CHA, RBMA, and the like publish information-rich data for us to dig into to focus our improvement efforts in areas with the most significant opportunity and thus, maximize our efforts in areas with the most return.
FINANCIAL PRODUCTIVITIES AND BENCHMARKS
The impact for financial services could be the same as the operational impact. There are countless options for consultant services. However, many of our OEM vendors could provide these services. An industry standard for economic productivities is the cost per test and treatment. Partnering with our OEMs would make sense, as these companies have insight into equipment software to show utilization. With simple staffing statistics combined with actual utilization of the equipment from OEM-provided software, you could have a real-time automated financial dashboard that produces this impactful data.
BECOMING PROFICIENT WITH DATA AND ANALYSIS
Lastly, how will you and your team “own” the data experience? There is a fear for our active leadership groups, who have focused on critical operational components for so long, over errors and misdirection for the group becoming proficient with data and analysis. Basic, core data analysis is much easier than one would expect, especially with the correct direction or mentor providing guidance. Most organizations have quality or process improvement teams who have in-depth knowledge of how to mine, analyze, and present data. Engaging and partnering within this team is an excellent opportunity to gain the valuable insight needed to become proficient with data. Once this begins, the fear over this seems to lessen, and you will learn advantageous analytical skills that can be applied to your departments for process improvements.
The reality is there is more information available than we will use. The key to strategic utilization and data consumption is where we source the data, how it is contextualized, and then used to change our actions and focus areas as we advance. The authors encourage the readers to get their hands dirty, understand the data, and incorporate it into the management of your site. Avoid the potential to immediately reject the data you are challenged with within your organization. Always validate the information and, if it is incorrect, you can make appropriate corrections. This will ensure that you are held to an acceptable standard and next year’s incentives/goals will reflect your achievement.
Asset Management, Competition, Information Source, Productivity, Staffing, Training and Advising
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