Before I address the topic of process measures in healthcare, it is important that we understand not only what process measure is, but what process improvement is.
Process Improvement is a proactive well thought our task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing business process within an organization for optimization and to meet new standards of quality and quotas. With Process improvement, there are different approaches to be considered but it often involves a systematic approach which follows a specific methodology. Many industries and organizations devote a huge chunk of their strategic plan to process improvement. Some examples are benchmarking or lean manufacturing, each of which focuses on different areas of improvement and uses different methods to achieve the best results in the manufacturing industry. Processes can either be modified or complemented with subprocesses or even eliminated for the ultimate goal of improvement.
In the Healthcare Industry, Process Improvement is an ongoing practice and should always be followed up with the analysis of tangible areas of improvement in all departments. When implemented successfully, the results can be measured in the enhancement of increased patient satisfaction, more efficient care, better population health, development of the skills of employees in all levels of the healthcare organization including non-medical staff, efficiency and reduced cost of care, and all round increase in productivity,
Now that we understand what process improvement in Healthcare is, we will be better prepared to understand What are Process Measures in Healthcare.
Process Measures in Healthcare
In healthcare, there are three types of measures: Outcome Measures, Balance Measures, and Process Measures. Of this three, Process measures is the most important. I’ll briefly explain the other measures
Outcome Measures are the high-level clinical or financial outcomes that concern healthcare organizations. They measure the quality and cost that targets improvement. These measures are often reported to government and commercial payers. Some examples of metrics for outcome measures include mortality rates, readmissions rates, length of stay, and surgical site infection rates.
Balance measures: Balance measures are the metrics a health system must track to ensure an improvement in one area isn’t negatively impacting another area. For example, let’s say the length of stay (LOS) in labor and delivery is the outcome metric. The hospital wants to reduce LOS and save money. The balance metric might be patient satisfaction. If mothers feel rushed toward discharge, the outcome there might be a negative impact on patient satisfaction.
Process measures are the most important and are the specific steps in a process that lead — either positively or negatively — to a particular outcome metric. For example, let’s say the outcome measure is the length of stay. A process metric for that outcome might be the amount of time that passes between when the physician ordered the discharge and when the patient was actually discharged. Digging even deeper, you might look at the turnaround time between final take-home medication being ordered and medication delivery to the unit. If it takes the pharmacy three hours to get the necessary medications to the floor — potentially delaying the discharge — you’ve pinpointed a concrete opportunity for healthcare process improvement. Process improvement does not leave any stone unturned. It seeks to constantly make processes more efficient and cuts waste.
Process Measures are very important because they determine the root cause of a problem as opposed to staying on the surface level. One of the greatest benefits of having this process metric data on hand is the ability to identify what is really causing the problem in your organization. Problems don’t usually originate from people but from the process of the organization. In most organizations, however, the system of incident reporting doesn’t recognize this fact.