Health Information Management

Topic: Improve service with an assessment of your resources and activities

HIM-HIPAA Insider, April 17, 2007

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One of the greatest challenges facing today's health-information leaders is finding enough time to perform an assessment.

It is no wonder there is a shortage of time to do an assessment: Health-information leaders today find themselves working 60 hours or more per week between their routine assignments and committee/ad hoc work; finding 60-80 concentrated hours to reengineer their departments is often impossible. This type of service is often contracted out to qualified health-information consulting firms.

For many employees, reengineering means change, and change may threaten your staff. Reengineering is often equated with reorganizing and downsizing. Therefore, one of the first steps in an assessment is explaining the process to your health-information team members and seeking their input.

Reorganizing often occurs when economic pressures create the need to reduce costs regardless of the outcome. The goal for reengineering, however, is to improve service. Reengineering does not happen quickly. If you want to do it right, take the time to evaluate processes and their impact. Ultimately, the goal is to find minutes that add up to hours so you can do more with the same staff, perform new duties for which no staff have been allocated, or both. The changes often result in staff doing their jobs differently and doing different jobs, but the outcome requires less effort and enhances services to health-information customers.

If the goal of reengineering is to improve service, then customers can help identify which processes to evaluate first. Distribute a simple satisfaction survey to the HIM department's customers to identify areas that require attention. Remember, once you distribute a survey, customers will expect feedback and change.

This benchmarking effort may reveal unique alternatives: Customers may point out "better practices" at other healthcare organizations. These suggestions are worth investigating. Once customers offer their input, one or more functional areas will surface as primary concerns. Target these areas and associated functions for initial review. If the employees who perform these functions weren't involved in developing the survey, they should help identify better ways to do their jobs.

Employees who perform a function daily often have great ideas about how to more effectively do their jobs. Ask them to offer recommendations for reengineering; this effort confirms that their opinions count and gains their support for the change process. There are several methods for evaluating a process, many of which have their source in the performance-improvement arena. The following four methods are easy to use, effective in identifying redundant efforts and new ways of doing a job, and involve employees:

  • Brainstorming
  • Flow charting
  • Observation
  • 10 questions
  • Editor's note: Stay tuned for next week's HIM Connection to learn more about performing an assessment using the above methods. The above article was adapted from the book More with Less: Best Practices for HIM Directors. For more information or to order, call 877/727-1728 or click here.

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