Originally published on InContext, a Lexmark website. 

healthcare-technologyThis week, October 16-22, is Healthcare Quality Week 2016 brought to you by the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ). It’s a time many of us dedicate to celebrating the contributions healthcare quality professionals and the impact that they make on the field of medicine. This has always been a special week for me personally because I spent several years of my career devoted to the area of quality improvement.  I have first-hand knowledge of the special challenges healthcare quality professionals face — particularly in today’s rapidly evolving regulatory and clinical environments.

Now more than ever, quality is the driving force behind healthcare. Providers are not only being measured by it, but reimbursed based upon it, and healthcare quality professionals are at the center of it all. These dedicated leaders address many issues in the healthcare ecosystem, from patient safety and risk management to core measures and incident management. Moreover, these valuable teams ensure their healthcare facilities meet specific requirements set forth by accrediting bodies such as The Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

This is no easy task, but luckily there are some remarkable technologies available to support this effort. Now, technology can’t ensure healthcare quality any more than a state-of-the-art power saw and nail gun can ensure a carpenter produces a quality piece of furniture. A skilled healthcare quality professional is still absolutely necessary. But, like the carpenter analogy, the right tools can make the job a whole lot easier.

The Institute of Medicine defines healthcare quality by the following six attributes. Alongside each attribute are just a few ways the right technology can help support these initiatives.

  1. Safety — Patients should not be harmed while receiving the care that is intended to help them. A wide array of technologies can help support this effort For example, clinical decision support software can alert clinicians to potential adverse drug interactions or possible alternate patient diagnoses. Similarly, barcode-based Closed-Loop Medication Management (CLMM) systems can ensure the right patient receives the right medication in the right dose via the right route and at the right time. Even a basic technology such as a robust document management system can alert key personnel to patient record deficiencies that can negatively impact regulatory compliance and the overall quality of care.
  2. Patient-Centered — Care should be provided in a manner that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values. Furthermore, these values should guide all clinical decisions. To deliver true patient-centered care, it is essential that all clinical stakeholders have a comprehensive view into each patients’ entire medical history. This includes discrete data, clinical documentation and all medical images. An Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system and Enterprise Imaging solution that includes a Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) and enterprise viewing components can help make all patient information accessible from core clinical platforms such as an EHR or PACS, providing an informational foundation for patient-centered care.
  3. Timely — Reducing wait times and potentially harmful delays for both those who receive and give care has a huge impact on quality. Technologies such as tracking systems and automated workflow software that streamline patient traffic and clinical processes by automating manual tasks and accelerating cycle times can help ensure timely delivery of care.
  4. Effective — All care should be evidence-based to ensure optimal outcomes while avoiding both underuse and misuse. Data analytics and Population Health Management technologies can help ensure the most-effective treatments are prescribed for patients by assessing the information contained in a patient’s medical record and comparing it to treatment plan results of patients with similar profiles.
  5. Efficient — To deliver quality care, waste must be kept to a minimum. This includes the waste of equipment, supplies, ideas and energy. There are literally hundreds of technologies that can be deployed in all areas of a hospital that focus on reducing waste in some way, shape or form. The handling of paper is often a source of efficiency breakdown.   Intelligent data capture, automated workflow and document management technologies can help you vastly reduce the costly creation, routing and retention of paper in all areas of the enterprise — from Accounts Receivables to Human Resources to the Health Information Management department.
  6. Equitable — Finally, care should not vary in quality because of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location and socioeconomic status. Modern technologies such as telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are bringing the highest levels of care to even the most rural locations. These tools are finally breaking down the physical barriers to care that often prevented true equity in the past.

As you can see, while achieving healthcare quality is more important and challenging than it ever has been, there are several technologies that can help providers shoulder the load. Make sure you’re equipping your quality professionals with the tools they need to optimize their impact on the health system and its patients.

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