Operations management is critical in every industry, and healthcare is no exception. At its core, operations management is the planning, organizing, and supervising of internal processes to keep an organization running smoothly.
In the ever-changing healthcare industry, effective operations management is not an option, but a necessity. Without it, it’s difficult for a hospital, residential facility, nursing home, doctor’s office, or home healthcare organization to provide the quality care services that improve and save lives.
What is Healthcare Operations Management?
Operations management in healthcare refers to overseeing the day-to-day practices of a healthcare facility that impact the client experience and organizational goals. These practices are typically broken down into three components: administrative, financial, and legal.
- Administrative tasks may include keeping detailed records of medical and office supplies, scheduling employees, responding to questions from staff and customers, and updating patient records.
- Financial responsibilities often involve managing claims, medical billing, revenue cycle management, and value-based reimbursement.
- Legal practices usually revolve around compliance and credentialing.
Essentially, those who work in healthcare operations management focus on overseeing the facility and staff functions, which play a vital role in the delivery of care.
The Importance of Operations Management in Healthcare
The importance of operations management in healthcare cannot be overstated, as the healthcare industry is incredibly diverse, and operations often require unique solutions based on a variety of factors. If you’re an urgent care clinic, for example, the way you operate is far different than that of an assisted living facility.
Proper operations management can help you overcome a variety of obstacles so you can provide excellent customer service at every interaction. The right solution can eliminate manual processes to save you both time and money, and it can make HIPAA compliance easier and more consistent. Implementing proper tools can also improve staff and client communication, promote more effective collaboration among healthcare providers, and reduce or eliminate bottlenecks in your workflow.
Healthcare software options that support operations management vary widely, so it’s crucial to understand what each solution offers and how it suits your needs and customer base.
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The Benefits of Successful Healthcare Operations
There are a number of benefits to successful healthcare operations management, including:
Better client experience
Customers are more informed and have higher expectations for healthcare service than ever. Offering excellent customer service is vital for any business, but it’s especially important in healthcare, where every interaction can have significant consequences. Operational excellence requires giving employees the proper tools to be confident and successful in customer interactions so they’re well-prepared to deliver high-quality care.
By empowering healthcare workers with easy-to-use solutions for communication, data tracking, and appointment scheduling, you’ll be able to provide your clients with a consistent, high-quality experience. This makes it easier to develop the long-term relationships that help you serve more clients and grow the business.
Improved bottom line and competitive edge
More efficient operations means less wasted time and money, which translates to better profit margins. Building and maintaining a profitable healthcare organization requires running operations as smoothly as possible, while keeping employees and customers satisfied.
With strong operations management, you can find opportunities to improve in many different places, such as:
- Automating or simplifying recurring tasks: Identify points in the administrative process that require manual work, like calling to confirm patient appointments, and identify a simpler, more automated, and less error-prone method, like an automated appointment reminder system. This frees up time for tasks that are more important to the customer and the bottom line.
- Clarifying roles – Sometimes tasks are delayed or missed because no one knows who is responsible. Find these trouble areas, reset expectations, and clarify roles to improve operations and increase employee productivity.
- Identifying patient care trends – By collecting and reviewing patient satisfaction data and employee engagement data, you can take meaningful action in underperforming areas. If patients are waiting too long for appointments, find ways to optimize the scheduling and booking process. If employees are frustrated by long hours, look at opportunities to better manage the schedule or bring in qualified temporary workers.
Paying close attention to trends in service delivery (and the supporting data) helps you make informed, data-driven decisions that put you one step ahead of the competition. It also helps you get ahead of trends that greatly impact revenue, like employee retention and customer satisfaction.
Improved employee productivity
The numerous roadblocks that often arise in healthcare operations—disparate data, siloed processes, or poor communication—impede productivity. Healthcare providers, schedulers, and administrators spend too much time tracking down information and making calls, and not enough time delivering care.
Strong healthcare operations supported by centralized technology puts the focus where it belongs: caring for patients. Reducing and eliminating operational bottlenecks makes for more productive doctors, nurses, home health providers, lab technicians, and other staff members.
How To Improve Operations Management
There are several ways to improve healthcare operations management for better patient outcomes and a positive employee experience:
1. Collect and Leverage (the Right) Data
Data help healthcare leaders make informed decisions that steer the organization toward success and prepare it for crises. The specifics of your healthcare services, business goals, and patient base will determine the ideal data you’ll want to gather and use to your advantage. Depending on these factors, you may include services provided, billable time, mileage and travel reimbursement for mobile workers, and patient-reported wellness.
But it can be a real hassle to collect and leverage the right data, unless you have the right tools. And once you’ve captured that data, the disparate systems in which it lives may make it difficult to connect and analyze in a meaningful way.
With the right technology, however, you can simplify the process and add value to your business in one fell swoop. Look for a solution that automatically collects data wherever your workers are—whether that’s in the office, at a patient’s home, or at a testing site—through secure mobile devices. Set clear KPIs that have a demonstrable impact on the business, track those KPIs over time, and use them to hold the organization accountable for operational improvements.
2. Automate Wherever Possible
Manual processes are costly and time-consuming, so automation is a must for operational efficiency. It’s well worth your time and money to research and invest in tools that reduce or even completely eliminate the manual processes that are slowing your operations team down.
Automate scheduling, dispatching, and other recurring tasks when possible, as doing so will allow you to make better use of your resources and increase operational efficiency. You’ll find that when you automate your processes, your team will be able to focus on other big picture tasks that help your organization grow.
Modern tools offer features that automatically match the right person to the right job (based on qualifications, travel time, customer preference, and more), optimize schedules, and transform operations from reactive to proactive. The resulting increase in productivity will enhance customer satisfaction and make scaling your organization and operations a breeze.
3. Enable Better Communication
Effective communication among caregivers, patients, and healthcare providers is the key to improved patient outcomes. After all, without it, details tend to fall through the cracks, customers are left dissatisfied, and staff turnover increases. Traditional methods for sharing information—like phone calls, emails, and text messages—are disjointed and don’t provide the real-time access required to remain prepared.
Time is of the essence for any business, but especially so in healthcare environments. A seamless, easy-to-use communication tool is more important than ever. With the right technology in place, your deskless and desk-based workers can communicate with each other (and with customers), and access key details, all in one centralized place. Look for a solution that offers not only automated notifications of schedule changes, but also built-in communication features for “in the moment” issues.
4. Provide Tools That Meet Employees Where They Are
The truth is, many healthcare organizations still use outdated tools that simply aren’t capable of enabling seamless operations. While in the past, manual tools may have been enough to keep employees engaged and your organization competitive, the demands of the industry now require more sophisticated software and technologies. As technology becomes more pervasive, both your employees and customers have high expectations for how your business operates, and you’ll need to adapt your operations to meet the needs of today’s healthcare consumers.
By investing in robust tools, you’ll arm your employees (and delight your customers) with the information they need to get the job done. Focus on implementing tools that offer fast, easy access to updated schedules, secure access to patient data, and are interoperable with other core systems.
5. Integrate with Existing Systems
Chances are, your healthcare organization uses multiple systems for tasks like scheduling, payroll, HR, and claims. If these systems aren’t connected, you’ll have to keep track of various sources of truth, which takes more time and introduces more error in the process.
To increase efficiency and scale up the business, look for tools that integrate with your principal systems and support your end-to-end workflows. When data is available and accurate across a completely unified tech stack, you’ll be able to maintain a seamless customer and employee experience. You’ll also be able to use that data to identify potential areas of opportunity within your operations to improve service delivery.
Improve Your Healthcare Operations with Intelligent Software
No matter your size or scope, operations management can make or break your healthcare organization. If you prioritize successful healthcare operations, you’ll position your practice for growth and success. On the contrary, if you put it on the backburner, it’ll be difficult to meet your goals.
Skedulo’s Healthcare and Home Health Scheduling platform can revolutionize your healthcare operations with tools that help you increase efficiency, reduce costs, and enable seamless communication.