Business improvement is an approach which seeks to achieve improvements by means of raising the visibility of the relative efficiency and effectiveness of the business processes that exist within and across a given healthcare organization, even when it is relatively small. Another way to think of the term business improvement is Business Process Reeingineering, or BPR.
Business process reengineering began as an analytical technique to help organizations fundamentally rethink how they do their work in order to improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become more competitive.
Re-engineering starts with a high-level assessment of the organization’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and customer (or, in our case, patient) needs. Basic questions are asked, such as “Does our mission or vision need to be redefined? Are our strategic goals aligned with our mission? Who are our customers/patients? And “What are we really trying to achieve?”
A healthcare organization may find that it is operating on questionable assumptions, particularly in terms of the wants and needs of its patients. Within the framework of this basic assessment of vision, mission, and goals, reengineering consequently focuses on the healthcare organization’s operational processes or the task steps and procedures that exist to steer how resources are used to create products and services that meet the needs of particular patients.
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The key to BPR is for organizations to look at their business processes on an “as is” basis and determine how they can best change or re-construct these processes to improve performance. Many organizations and medium to large sized healthcare providers are split into functional specialties or departments. Through these departments, processes tend to flow across these boundaries. Because no one department has full control, these processes can become inefficient, and expensive.
Writers and experts involved in process reengineering argue that far too much time is wasted in sequentially performing and handing-off tasks from one department to another. They claim that it is far more efficient to appoint a team who are responsible for all or most of the tasks in the process (even if the team is “matrixed” or work in very different and far apart physical locations). They extend the argument to include suppliers, distributors, and other business partners.
Of course, almost all organizational processes are usually fragmented into many sub-processes and tasks that are carried out by several specialized functional areas within an organization. Often, no one is responsible for the overall performance of the entire process, so it is very important to ensure that representatives from each key area are included in any business improvement review team.
Re-engineering thinking suggests that optimizing the performance of sub-processes can result in some benefits, but cannot yield dramatic improvements if the process itself is fundamentally inefficient and outmoded. For that reason, business improvement should ideally focus on redesigning a given process as a whole, in order to achieve the greatest possible benefits to the organization and its customers.
CEO-RX4 Group-The Business of Healthcare
Jon is the CEO of RX4 Group based in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jon@RX4Group.com
RX4 is a nationally focused healthcare strategy business, which offers business support to healthcare provider organizations of all sizes and types to help them deal with change, innovate and profitably grow. The RX4 Group has four primary business practice areas including Marketing strategy, Operations Strategy, People Strategy and Financial strategy.