Clinical Process Improvement

Clinical Process Improvement: The Path to Better Patient Care

Recently, I was researching new hiking trails near my home in Utah. One of the reviews on a lesser-known waterfall hike said, “There are several different starts to this trailhead, but it doesn’t matter which one you take, they all merge together right before the falls.” Sometimes, the mission of changing the world’s healthcare feels similar. Healthcare, as the world’s most complex service industry, has many paths of improvement – yet if we’re focused on change for the better, I suspect those paths will all line merge into better patient outcomes and experience.

Over the last few months, I’ve been trekking down one of those many paths. We recently published our inaugural research on the emerging area of clinical performance improvement (CPI). CPI solutions use data to drive improvements in clinical processes with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.

In the past, clinical teams have had to rely on manual processes and observation if they want to understand how effective they are with their clinical processes. For many reasons, manual process improvement needs overhauling. For example, watched behavior (or rather, behavior when the subject knows they’re being watched) is often different from regular behavior.

Everyone has had the experience of being under observation – a song you can play flawlessly when alone becomes stressful at the recital. And who didn’t make sure to put on their best behavior as a child, when they knew the adults were watching?

But aside from the problems of manual observation, building market pressures such as regulations, value-based care, and increased visibility into other patients’ experiences prove that manual processes just don’t cut it. Organizations need reliable, strategic insights both at a bird’s eye view and at the level of a single care provider.

Enter CPI. These solutions harness the latent EMR and other clinical data and extract the clinically relevant details that help providers identify opportunities to improve their care delivery.

It should be noted that in our recent report, we looked specifically at solutions that focus on that care delivery. Lots of other solutions focus on population health, cost avoidance, or end-user efficiency. For example, Epic offers their provider efficiency profile (PEP), but they’re lacking in analytics tools that go beyond efficiency to address quality of care. That’s opened the door for best-of-breed CPI vendors. Cerner is the only EMR vendor in this report who offers analytics geared toward patient care.

Overall, there’s a lot of variation in this new space. None of the vendors in our report have the same approach, and there’s no hard-and-fast standard for functionality. But generally, CPI solutions help providers do these 3 things:

  1. Gather Data – this data can come from quality tools, medical records, billing systems, or risk assessments, among other sources. Again, different CPI solutions pull different types of information.
  2. Analyze and Make Sense of That Data – this can mean functionality like drill-down capabilities, benchmarking, or predictive modeling.
  3. Use the Insights to Actually Change Patient Care – this can happen on the back end (refining EMR workflows, order sets, or alerts, or developing end-user reporting tools) or through real-life coaching and education for clinicians. All these downstream effects are meant to help clinicians improve the care experience of their patients.

Providers use these solutions in a variety of different areas; some of the most common include sepsis, quality reporting, and reducing length of stay (see the report for other use cases).

One provider we spoke to talked about why CPI technology is so important. When it comes down to it, clinicians are the ones who can make a real difference in their patients’ care. The buck stops with them. In this provider’s words, technology that helps clinicians optimize their care processes “will save lives.”

Another provider shared, “We are human, and as long as humans drive the boat, there will be errors, mistakes, and lives lost. If we have a tool that can decrease errors and improve prognoses, then there is no question of whether we should use it.”

The point in starting a hike is to go out and accomplish something. You pit yourself against the mountain side and at the end are rewarded with stunning vistas and cascading falls. My hope, as we walk the path of healthcare improvement marked “CPI,” we find a similar experience at the end of the trail.

To learn more about the CPI solutions on the market and how they can help you improve patient care, read our report.