January 2012 Viewpoints – Patient Care Transitions

Momentum For Our Mission

Our Mission is to drive operational excellence in healthcare organizations through leading-edge process management innovations that streamline enterprise workflow, improve financial return, and enhance the patient experience.

Since our introductory newsletter in October 2011 we have grown from a handful of readers to over 400 seasoned healthcare and related industry professionals. Most of you are also part of our Linked-In community and we appreciate that additional connection. For those of you with whom we are not yet “linked-in”, please join us at LinkedIn.

We have also been busy speaking with industry leaders, hospital administrators, practice managers, physicians and consultants about critical “pain points” in healthcare operations. What became very clear is that patient handoffs or “transitions in care” are a common challenge with few proven solutions in sight. Process inefficiencies, which in some cases are a matter of life and death and in all cases are a matter of waste leading to higher costs and lower revenues, are present even in hospitals and practices with advanced EHR, PM and legacy IT systems. This is not a shortcoming of the systems, but rather a “gap” in the availability of information “bridges” that better connects people and improves the orchestration of the work that these people need to get done.

For this reason, this newsletter will feature one of the initiatives we are working on to address the challenge of transitions in care. As before, we welcome your feedback and the opportunity to discuss these and other process or workflow issues your organization may have.

OHI Feature: Patient Care Transitions

One of the many challenges facing provider organizations is how patients are transitioned from one physician’s care to another in terms of the exchange or “handoff” of critical information. Optimium Health believes that optimizing information exchange from one caregiver to another through process automation will secure three key benefits: 1) improve patient safety, 2) enhance patient and provider satisfaction, and, 3) increase provider financial performance.

An October 2010 Joint Commission study across ten hospitals of national prominence indicated that 37% of patient handoffs were defective and did not allow the receiver to safely care for the patient. Additionally, 21% of the senders were dissatisfied with the quality of the handoff. Further, the commission study stated that handoff failures account for 80% of all adverse events.

While EHR systems provide significant data capture and storage, most do not offer a means to improve caregiver workflow processes that are manually intensive and, therefore, are ripe for errors, omissions, and duplications. Optimium Health can use an EHR system as a foundation technology and then overlay the OPTIMI$ER process engine to create tailored dashboards, checklists, alerts, and information bridges that will facilitate caregiver handoffs.

This kind of data “push” and “pull” interoperability will enhance the value of an EHR system, as well as other systems like lab, scheduling, etc. that currently operate as information “silos” versus a vertically integrated information exchange. The net result is significantly improved:

  • Accuracy by reducing errors, omissions, and duplications;
  • Timeliness by the use of proactive dashboards and alerts;
  • Safety by improving the accuracy of the handoffs
  • Satisfaction of the patients and caregivers by creating the safer and more efficient environment

Specifically, OPTIMI$ER can positively impact perioperative care orchestration and information exchange. Why is this area of interest to us? Operating rooms account for approximately 42% of a hospital’s revenue. And yet, a poor on-time start rate for the first case of the day is recognized as the principal cause of inefficiency in the operating room. The average OR starts on time 27 percent of the time which is clearly a disastrous performance. And, according to the Health Financial Management Association (HFMA) “…improving throughput by just one additional procedure per day per OR suite can generate anywhere from $4M to $7M in additional revenue for the average-sized organization”. OPTIMI$ER has been designed to address the specific workflow issues that cause such an outstandingly bad performance across the majority of the 34,000 operating rooms.

Leveraging Today’s Healthcare IT

Today’s healthcare providers face constant pressure to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of care while reducing costs and increasing revenue. Many incentives encourage providers to improve performance (such as financial incentives to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health records [EHR] technology)—and increasingly, the healthcare community is being asked to do more with less. These pressures extend to all aspects of the organization, from clinical operations to revenue cycle and administrative processes.

Investments in process optimization, throughput, and workflow efficiency technologies offer a way for providers to meet operational goals against the backdrop of an ever-more daunting strategic agenda.

Article Reference: John Glaser/Ray Hess “Leveraging Healthcare IT to Improve Operational Performance

OHI Feature: What’s Ahead?

Upcoming examples for how handoffs in the perioperative setting can be improved through workflow automation: scheduling, surgical checklists, supply audit trail.

October 2011 Viewpoints – Bringing Workflow Optimization to Healthcare Organizations

Optimium Health: An Introduction

Vicki Harrison and Dr. Mark Stega have combined their respective healthcare experience to form Optimium Health Incorporated (OHI), a consulting and technology solutions firm that works with healthcare provider organizations, physician practices, hospitals and health systems. The changing needs of the market today require organizations to run more efficiently, optimizing their performance to gain financial benefit, while at the same time, improving quality and their bottom line. Thus, OHI’s mission is to drive operational excellence with leading-edge process management solutions designed to optimize enterprise workflow, improve financial return, and enhance the patient experience.

What we saw missing within current healthcare consulting and technology offerings is the ability to create repeatable and sustainable processes. These are needed to drive efficiency, provide rapid ROI, optimize the performance of both people and technology, and allow for measuring and improving quality. Technology vendors provide technology, which in most cases requires the user to modify the way they do work in order to utilize the technology. Consulting firms provide recommendations and some very modest tools and materials to implement change. Neither works particularly well in isolation over the mid to long term.

Optimium Health, Inc. approaches the problem from a different perspective. We can enhance the sustainability, accuracy, and repeatability by applying workflow automation tools to a complex set of processes.

Our workflow engine, known as OPTIMI$ER™, uses a set of automation tools that guide the worker through each step of a process, immediately alerting the worker to missed steps in the processes being performed before the missed step negatively impacts the process. OPTIMI$ER assures that steps in a process are identical from one worker to another, assuring consistent repeatable and sustainable processes that are documented and measurable. Reports are available in real-time and easily configurable.

OPTIMI$ER will provide leverage for consulting firms who want to enhance the deliverable to their client by increasing the areas of opportunity. OPTIMI$ER will enhance the efficiencies and interoperability of legacy technology systems within an organization by adding a process layer that monitors and orchestrates workflow.

The end result is that an ROI is achievable in less than three months, either through revenue recovery or reallocation of staff. Because OPTIMI$ER is working in the background, it has little to no impact on the way the work is done and the learning curve is nearly immediate.

Optimizing The Way Healthcare Systems Work

The Problem: Approximately 25% of all medical practice income is lost in one of the following ways: Under pricing, under coding, missed charges or non reimbursed claims. An average of 3-5% of annual practice revenue is lost because the practice failed to bill for services and procedures that the physicians performed.[Source : “Billing Problems? Consider Your Charge Ticket” by Deborah Grider, CPC-EM (Appeared in 2008 Physician Practice)] Many things can contribute to the problem. For example, how are the following questions being answered: Who is doing the coding? How are charge tickets processed through the practice? How are patients scheduled or seen in an emergent encounter? When a patient is seen at the hospital ED, how does the practice receive the billing information? How are charge tickets rectified?

Without processes in place to track workflows and identify breakdowns, a provider organization may have no idea how much revenue is being lost.

Our Philosophy: We begin by understanding the needs of people, reviewing the processes in place and then adapting the technology.

Our Solution:

OPTIMI$ER™ transforms predominantly manual labor intensive vertical “silo” workflows that unintentionally create an office environment ripe for errors, inefficiencies and inconsistencies into “integrated” horizontal workflows between department staff, practice managers, physicians and hospitals/surgi-centers.

Through the use of business intelligence, rules, alerts, and directing work to the appropriate person, OPTIMI$ER connects people, process and technology to create a dynamic horizontal workflow environment. It breaks down static, workflow “silos” and the accompanying barriers to efficiency. By optimizing clinical processes, an organization can realize improved financial returns, increased operational efficiencies and enhanced cross department communication while reducing errors, duplications and missed steps in the process.

Our Results:

The financial benefits of OPTIMI$ER tend to fall into three areas of improvement: a) throughput b) resource allocation c) revenue capture.

By way of example, in an orthopedic group with 9 physicians, OPTIMI$ER helped to find $950,000 in non-billed charges over a 12 month period. This resulted in approximately $350,000 in additional revenue that otherwise would have been lost.

Furthermore, due to the efficiency provided by OPTIMI$ER, the number of schedulers required to schedule procedures was reduced from 5.5 to 2.5 resulting in an additional savings of $100,000 in FTE overhead.

On the softer side, there were fewer missed surgeries due to scheduling mishaps which led to increased satisfaction for physicians, schedulers, and patients.

For a copy of OHI’s Orthopaedic Practice Whitepaper, please contact us using the contact form available in the menu above.

Top 10 IT Priorities for Healthcare

Healthcare IT News, August 17, 2011

Revenue cycle management, HIEs and Massachusetts are among the healthcare topics that every organization should have in mind for 2011 and beyond, according to HIMSS Analytics.

Included in the recent HIMSS Analytics report, “Essentials of the U.S. Hospital IT Market – 6th Edition,” is an outline of the top health IT issues that will have a significant impact on the industry in the next few years. Among them are:

Revenue Cycle Management

The PPACA regulations for Medicare reimbursements will pose a great challenge to hospitals as they work to maintain their revenue cycle operations. Keeping tabs on RCM vendors’ communications and strategies is key.


The Health Level 7 document proves that the industry is still paying attention to the need for standards, but vendors must see demand for its use. Semantic interoperability is another key issue – monitor ONC and meaningful use regulations for a standard medical vocabulary.

For the full article, click on this link.

OHI “Viewpoints”: What’s Ahead

While this issue of OHI “Viewpoints” is simply to provide a brief overview of who we are and what we do, subsequent issues will aim to open a two-way dialogue with our readers. Our focus will be on the various workflow challenges facing healthcare organizations today and how practices, hospitals and support services have overcome them. Additionally, we will highlight industry reports that may be useful references as you evaluate priorities for and options available to your enterprise.

We invite you to contact us using the “Contact Us” form from the menu above for further information about Optimium Health or with suggestions for future “Viewpoints” content. And please forward our newsletter to colleagues you think would be interested in hearing from us.

We intend to publish “Viewpoints” 4-6 times per year.