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Quality 101 – Part 5: “E” is for Efficient


In the first article in this series, we looked at the Institute of Medicine’s STEEEP acronym, which stands for care that is Safe, Timely, Effective, Efficient, Equitable, and Patient-Centered. Efficient care is the fourth pillar.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement describes efficiency by stating, “the health care system should be efficient, constantly seeking to reduce the waste — and hence the cost — of supplies, equipment, space, capital, ideas, time, and opportunities.”

This definition, though, doesn’t just include the time, supplies, space, ideas and opportunities of the providers and clinic staff, but also those of the patients. How many times have we, as patients in the healthcare system, been bounced around phone trees, hospitals, and other healthcare providers in a seemingly endless cycle of duplication, waiting, and accruing cost?

To evaluate efficiency in your healthcare system, consider observing the following areas:

  • Waiting: At which touchpoints during scheduling or care are patients made to wait? How many times are they waiting, and for how long?

  • Duplication: Where are providers and staff duplicating one another’s work? From the patient perspective, this often frustrating when we take the time to fill out new intake forms, and then have the nurse and providers ask us the same questions that we just answered in the paperwork.

  • Cost & Unnecessary Care: Are providers recommending tests and procedures that might have a less expensive and easier alternative? The website www.choosingwisely.org is a fantastic resource for providers and patients to get the most current information on best practices in diagnosis, procedures, and alternative options for acute, diagnostic, and preventive care. Want a great example? Check out these recommendations on the typical preventive screenings recommended by physicians.

Ensuring healthcare is efficient will reduce cost, waste, and frustration for you and your patients. Next time, we’ll look at equitable care. Please e-mail me with questions until then.

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