Driven By Data

Years ago, it was much more common to "fly by the seat of our pants", making business decisions that "feel" right. A few billionaires can do that effectively.

Organizations that insist on making decisions by committee, with no real leader in decision making, can simply do nothing, which really makes for an organization that goes nowhere, does little new and exciting because so many plans just die in committee.

The rest of us need to base our decisions on something tangible. Other organizations' successes can teach us, as can data. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is where the data comes from, and since every interaction with a consumer requires some sort of data scribbled on a piece of paper (little value) or entered into the computer (high value), an organization measures its own success and future planning on that data. Although other factors enter the mix, this one's value is provable and covered nicely by The National Council's recent study on Enhanced Access and Engagement Quality Improvement Initiative Strategies to Increase Therapy Adherence (quite a title, eh?)

When a consumer doesn't show for an appointment, a practitioner is oftentimes stuck sitting around with nothing to do...that's a waste of the person's time, and a drain on facility revenue. People need to work to have insurance and Medicaid pay the bill. This is a major problem nationwide, so the question of the moment is "How do we entice consumers to put their appointments on the top of their priority list?" Thinking now is that care provider and consumers are both tied into the equation.

A mental health or substance abuse treatment facility that is making ineffective decisions, flying by the seat of somebody's pants, or one that makes little progress because the committee can't make up their mind to do something, ends up with morale problems. If a care provider has low morale, then how do the consumers feel after walking out of a session with that person? Attitudes are contagious.

If, on the other hand, an agency is making strides to improve, collecting more money for what they do, you see the evidence in a new coat of paint, a gleam of excitement in a practitioner's eye when they say "Hello!" to the consumer, as well as general attitude and physical improvements throughout the agency. A dingy facility with bummed-out practitioners isn't a place consumers want to go, so more appointments are broken in those environments.

So, what's required in order to improve is change. Change that's driven by data works better than the other two methods I've been talking about. What with today's Rapid Change Cycle to make those changes, the implementation excitement's over pretty quick, so the new coat of paint and improving attitudes are just around the corner, which help consumers justify putting treatment at a higher priority level.

Once the EHR is properly implemented, suiting workflows that make it the least disruptive to the staff and consumers, a facility gets the data required for good business decisions rather quickly. It's simple to get quality data when central scheduling is in place and care is consumer-centered, involving the consumer and the practitioner in assessing the problems, developing the plan to recover, and recording the progress in notes. The data gathered in the process leads to improvement for the facility, practitioner and consumer.

Once again, the EHR saves the world. OK, maybe not the world, but isn't it nice to see facilities improve?