The Business Value of Safety and Quality Initiatives

May 10, 2018

Safety and quality initiatives don’t just impact patients and staff, but healthcare costs and reimbursements, too.

Patient safety has always been the center of the customer value proposition for healthcare organizations, but now with the shift from volume to value-based care, it is becoming more closely correlated to business performance as well. This has elevated discussions of patient safety from the clinical level to the c-suite level and increased leadership engagement in driving quality improvements throughout the organization.

Increasingly, everything healthcare organizations do from a business perspective, or healthcare vendors do from a product design perspective, must deliberately tie back to that patient-centric safety view and quality-focused consistency in order to achieve overall value. Safety must be at the core of operations as a strategic imperative for every decision that is made in the organization.


Reliability and Consistency Key Tenets of Quality Outcomes

In imaging, reliability and consistency are key tenets of ensuring quality outcomes. Healthcare organizations must have processes in place to consistently monitor and measure equipment to ensure uptime, maintain quality and mitigate risk. While these measures are ultimately designed for delivering patient care that is safe and effective, they also provide business benefits. For example, by eliminating the need to bring patients back in for re-scans-healthcare organizations can increase throughput and reduce overall cost. Taking a holistic view of safety and quality enables hospitals to not only deliver care in the most expeditious way, but also in a caring and safe manner for both patients and staff. The two goals can co-exist and be mutually beneficial.

Total Safety and Quality Mindset Needed

Diagnostic imaging is one area of healthcare in which a total safety and quality mindset is essential, especially as it relates to managing radiation dose, repeat scans and limiting dose exposure over time. Managing radiation dose is always a safety concern. Quality measures ensure patient safety can be done in a repeated fashion, reducing repeat scans and facilitating reimbursements for value-based care.

In our recent study of the patient experience of imaging, patients sought safety and well-being throughout the imaging process, with 69 percent of patients wanting an effective scan with minimal dose and 67 percent wanting the right image the first time to reduce repeat scans. This research shows how closely safety (managing radiation dose) and quality (first time right scan) are connected to achieve the desired patient experience outcome.

Similarly, healthcare leaders must pay attention to the safety of their own staff as well. Establishing radiation safety protocols to minimize exposure and investing in equipment with dose monitoring are two examples of ways leaders can keep staff safe. When healthcare providers build their business value proposition, they must go through every stage of the patient journey with both the patient’s and the staff’s safety in mind.


Take a Proactive, Behavior-based Approach

When you introduce human beings into any system, there is always the potential for human error. However, well-thought-out safety and quality initiatives reduce the chance of mistakes occurring. A true quality mindset means not just identifying the human error that came into play, but determining how the system or workflow process can be improved to reduce the chance of human errors in the future.

A critical component of this is learning how safety is managed or assessed based on human behavior. Healthcare providers and vendors need to understand how the patient and staff interact and utilize equipment to most effectively learn and apply a behavior-based approach to safety and quality. A behavior-based approach that correlates to daily routines of staff or specific patient behaviors at that particular hospital is much more actionable and measurable than general recommendations.

Staff education and error reporting are often seen as the biggest opportunities for improving patient safety measures. This means taking a proactive approach to ensuring the equipment will work the way it’s supposed to and will be consistent and reliable in terms of its delivery of care, so at no point in time would it actually harm or injure staff or patients. This requires healthcare organizations to have a process in place that ensures they are consistently monitoring the efficacy and safety of the products, and that staff is properly trained to use them consistently, reliably and effectively.

Continuous Improvement

To that end, healthcare providers and vendors need to always be thinking about continuous improvement in product design and technology innovation, and how it can be informed by user input, situational feedback and insights from real patients. It’s a shared effort to proactively monitor and identify problems, and commit to resolve them as quickly as possible. This will not only improve safety and quality in the patient experience of imaging, but deliver business value as well.

Austin O'Connell is head of quality and regulatory, diagnostic imaging, Philips.