Kevin NeumanAre you interested in effectively engaging clinicians in your healthcare organization’s efforts to increase the value of the care delivered within its facilities?

In an era of ever-tightening budget constraints, it is critical for hospital and health system leaders to effectively engage clinicians in efforts to reduce the cost of the products and services they use daily for clinical care in the hospital. Budget considerations and quality-of-care issues are increasingly inseparable as the nation moves to a value-based healthcare system. If physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff are to be effective participants on an organization’s “value-analysis team,” both hospital leaders and clinicians need to understand that decisions about reducing non-labor costs, such as products and services, involve more than trimming dollars. A case for change should be based on both financial and clinical outcomes data.

Having accurate data on how products and services are used within the organization is a starting point, as is the use of evidence-based research to illustrate the clinical benefits of proposed changes. For example, studies may show that using a particular wound care product has measurable patient benefits, such as reducing scarring or accelerating recovery time, thereby reducing total wound care costs. Value-based analytics also can be helpful in altering how products are used, including reducing waste by eliminating unnecessary opening of excess sterile surgical packs.

Targeting inappropriate clinical variation is another source of significant savings. Such variation occurs when broad differences in the way care is delivered within the same organization are not supported by evidence-based research, or quality or outcomes data. For example, based on a review of general surgery operations, physicians and administrators at a major Boston academic medical center reduced costs of doing hernia repairs more than 20 percent by agreeing to use a specific lower-cost mesh (Gawande, A., “The Real Reform of Healthcare,” Kaufman Hall Report, 2010). In another case, a Chicago-area community hospital saved $665,000 after cardiologists agreed to use a common device for electrophysiology tracking.

Engaging a wide range of clinicians in product and service line decisions ensures the best results by enabling organizations to tap into a wealth of organizational knowledge. For example, nurses often can provide insights into the subtle differences in using one medical device versus another, and members of a hospital’s LEAN or Six Sigma team also can provide valuable analytics.

Whether your organization is considering instituting new protocols or products, changing vendors, or economizing on the use of existing products and services, having strong clinician leadership involved in the evaluation process is vital to sound decision making.

Kevin is a vice president in the strategic cost management practice at Kaufman, Hall & Associates Inc.

Publication Date: Friday, January 18, 2013