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Process Excellence Needed to Help Hospitals Control Costs

Joshua Hoffman
February 3, 2015

The health care industry is facing a financial crisis, but investing in business process management solutions can help hospitals develop the procedural excellence they need to maximize the gains of technology. When combined, process gains and technological advances can transform the way health care organizations operate and promote fiscal efficiency across the industry. This could prove key moving forward as a study from Congressional Budget Office found that rising health care costs are among the greatest negative issues in the U.S. economy.

"Sustainable operational gains are needed to keep health care costs under control."

According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, the Congressional Budget Office found that the problem of health care costs isn't just a concern because of how much it impacts the nation's economic health. The bigger issue is that many of the reasons why health care costs have moderated in recent years have been one-time events that may not be repeatable.

Looking at health care cost mitigation

The report explained that health care costs have been moderating recently, but the gains can't be depended upon as long-term solutions. Citing its own research and a variety of other studies, the Congressional Budget Office explained that the economic recession may have contributed to anywhere between 37 and 70 percent of recent cost moderation in health care. Technological advances likely helped, as has a rise in generic prescription drugs. Rising co-payments and deductibles also provided approximately 20 percent of cost moderation in the industry.

While these are promising gains, the Congressional Budget Office explained that many of them are the kind of one-time market events that can't be replicated or depended upon to have a sustainable impact on the industry. As such, more effort needs to be put into finding permanent ways to improve health care operations to keep costs under control and create a healthier economic landscape.

The cost of a health care is a major economic challenge.The cost of a health care is a major economic challenge.

Focusing on the processes

Technology was meant to transform patient care. The problem is that new electronic health records and similar solutions can only be as good as the processes surrounding them. Hospitals that fail to optimize business procedures to support EHRs and improve workflows may not experience sustainable improvements. BPM tools can help hospitals take the initial gains offered by new health care industry technologies and ensure they are not only maximized, but handled in the most efficient way possible. This can include using BPM solutions as an application delivery platform to get key information out to clinical staff members spread throughout a facility or who are out of the office.

All told, long-term, sustainable operational gains are needed to keep health care costs under control, and process efficiency solutions play a key role in establishing such solutions.