Health Information Management

Topic: Get more out of your employees with these four methods

HIM-HIPAA Insider, April 24, 2007

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Last week, HIM Connection introduced you to four methods to help you identify redundant staff efforts and recognize new ways of doing old jobs with the help of your employees. These effective, easy to use techniques are the means by which you can perform an assessment of your department's resources and activities.

Brainstorming: This group problem-solving approach requires participants to identify ways to fix a problem. Solicit a list of ideas from the participants--the more unusual the idea, the better. Once the list is complete, encourage staff to review, criticize, or discuss the ideas. Brainstorming produces the following advantages:

  • Increases creativity in the individuals and the group
  • Encourages cooperative traits in the group
  • Allows divergent thinking to take place without concern of criticism
  • Allows for use of imagination
  • Broadens the understanding of the concept
  • Heightens the desire to attain the goal
  • Use a voting approach, known as a nominal group technique, to select the best ideas. Each member selects his or her top five items on the list and prioritizes them by rank. By voting, you avoid premature decisions and dominance by strong members in the group. Once the group discusses the preliminary vote, misunderstanding of the ideas can occur. Discussion enables group members to criticize the ideas on the list rather than the individuals who submitted them. At least one additional vote should occur after the discussion. The final selected options provide closure to the process and promote a sense of group accomplishment.

    Flow charting: The flow-charting approach allows you to dissect a procedure and see any redundant steps in the process. The symbols outlined below represent the sequence of tasks, decisions, and actions:

  • Round box--Represents an event that occurs automatically.Such an event will trigger a subsequent action (e.g., "receive telephone call") or describe a new state of affairs.
  • Rectangle or box--Represents an event that is controlled within the success. Typically, this will be a step or action taken. In most flow charts, this will be the most frequently used symbol.
  • Diamond--Represents a decision point in the process. Typically, a statement in a diamond will require a yes or no response. Then branch to diffferent parts of the flow chart accordingly.
  • Circle--Represents a point at which the flow chart connects with another process. The name or reference for the other process should appear within the symbol.
  • This format allows staff to visualize the process, documents the interrelationship of process steps, identifies actual and ideal flow paths, and identifies problems and potential improvements.

    Observation: For optimal flow-charting efforts, a manager may find it useful to observe how staff perform individual functions. The observation approach identifies the length, complexity, and sequence of each task, and highlights unnecessary tasks.

    When observation occurs, compare the current written procedure to the actual procedure. This step identifies unobserved tasks or outdated components of the procedure, thus allowing you to update the procedure.

    10 questions: Another productive approach to identify operational deficiencies is to solicit staff input. Consider the following 10 questions:

    1. What made you upset today?
    2. What took too long to complete?
    3. What caused complaints today?
    4. What was misunderstood today?
    5. What costs too much?
    6. What was wasted?
    7. What was too complicated?
    8. What was just plain silly?
    9. What job involved too many people?
    10. What job involved too many actions?

    Remember not to ask all the questions at once. Select one or two questions to ask during a group or department meeting. Maintain a list of the responses and the names of the individuals who offer comments. Group the most common responses together.

    Record each step in the process, and mark with an asterik any points that need further investigation or revision. List any planned changes in logical order, which helps identify additional resources or time needed.

    Editor's note: 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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