Optimizing Patient Care: Insights into Modern Healthcare Systems

Optimizing Patient Care: Insights into Modern Healthcare Systems

Gurrit Kaur,Healthcare Expert

The interview with Gurrit Kaur delves into optimizing patient care in modern healthcare systems. Topics include expertise in healthcare systems optimization, digitization's role in patient care, patient engagement strategies, data analytics' impact, quality improvement methodologies, patient safety initiatives, leadership's role, and future trends in healthcare delivery.

1. Could you provide an overview of your experience and expertise in healthcare systems optimization, particularly in enhancing patient care?

I have worked across healthcare verticals (services, diagnostics, medical devices, IT) and domains (domestic markets - urban and semi urban, international markets – US with exposure to other health systems). Through each assignment, the three key common dynamic factors of running an optimal business in healthcare are people, process and training apart from the necessary infrastructure. Focusing on how people can work with ease and deliver good output with least resistance, using their insights for optimization, be these problems or solutions, involving and empowering them on the shop floor and helping them create efficient work flows has always worked wonders. I have always found that happy employees always create happy experiences for customers, and patients in healthcare services. I have tried these successfully in 5 hospitals till now with visible impact on the topline and bottom-line.

2. How do you define a modern healthcare system, and what key components do you believe are essential for optimizing patient care within such a system?

In today’s times, digitization is a great enabler for capturing data, crunching this data into information insights which enables data driven decision making as well as support in better understanding of trends etc., enabling timely / required distribution of information within the system or outside of it to different stakeholders (doctors, nurses, patients, service managers, payors etc.). This also helps reduce redundancy of repetitive capturing of same information in a manual working situation in different areas of hospital. The simplest example being that nurses need to maintain a huge number of registers across different areas of a hospitals. Digitizing these helped reduce nurse’s time on documentation to the tune of 1.5 hours a day which went into patient care and training both of which helped up the NPS score of the particular hospital as well as helped better throughput of patients going through the system.

Another very key factor is that the clinical and administrative teams need to be in sync at every step. Normally in hospitals there is always a lot of dissonance between clinicians, para medical teams and administrative teams. Empowering them and creating a culture of respect for each role, however big or small it is, creates a culture of performance. The end result is always good patient care. 

3. What role do digital technologies and data analytics play in improving patient care outcomes, and what are some innovative approaches or tools you have seen or implemented?

Technology today transcends across IT systems, diagnostics, and medical devices, tracking devices and communication systems and more. Being able to use the right equipment in the right manner ups the patient outcomes both. CDSS (clinical decision support systems) are a great example for clinical assessments, tele-medicine is a great example of optimizing patient’s time and need ensuring quick clinical access, remote monitoring devices help in quick diagnosis and support, and advanced imaging systems support in choosing the right modality for better diagnosis…the list is huge for hospitals. Of course use of these needs to be balanced against the volume of use and ROI of the capex spend. 

4. How can healthcare organizations ensure a patient-centric approach while balancing operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness?

In my experience operational efficiency always results in cost effectiveness and when these two are in sync, the approach does become patient centric. These are not separate bits to look at, rather they are absolutely interconnected. The right use of tools, technologies and resources, including manpower, automatically leads to efficiency of output. Temper this with a good communication flow and good communication skills across the system, and things start working better. One of the most important part, and most ignored one as well, is the organization culture that ends up defining this. A culture of respect for each person and position, empowerment, empathy and timely action fosters performance and achievement of key organizational goals.

5. What strategies or initiatives have you found most effective in promoting patient engagement and empowerment in their own care management?

Empowerment always works. It’s a basic need of human nature. This works very well when employees are empowered with well-defined roles and responsibilities and decision-making enablers. The very same works with patients. Empowerment vs restrictions has been tested over and over…when the patient knows what is right or wrong and is enabled to make choices that work, they are also being entrusted the responsibility of self-care. The care givers also need to educate well so that they also understand their roles and responsibilities well.
However, I say this with a pinch of salt, because there a lot many other factors at play in this…local beliefs and therapies, stage of illness, the individual view of life and health etc. 

6. How important is interoperability among healthcare systems and data integration in achieving seamless patient care experiences, and what challenges need to be addressed in this area?

Interoperability is very important if we really want to build seamless experiences (clinically as well as non-clinically). These would have different use cases for both the private sector and the public sector. The outcomes of interoperability can enhance not just the patient experience but also population health initiatives, research, etc. To get to this level and scale, policy intervention by the governing bodies is necessary mandating various technical and business guidelines with strong checks and balances. We have a lot to learn from health systems where such initiatives have already been rolled out, we can learn from their mistakes and do this more efficiently.

7. Can you share examples of successful initiatives or technologies that have facilitated smooth data exchange and collaboration among healthcare providers for improved patient outcomes?

There are technologies that do that today. Clinical Decision Support Systems are a great example. In the Indian setting we are yet far on this front, or at least I am yet to witness this successfully.

8. What metrics or indicators do you consider crucial for measuring and monitoring the quality of patient care, and how do you ensure continuous improvement based on these metrics?

To ensure quality of services to deliver good patient care, there are a huge number of metrics – clinical as well as non-clinical! A lot of these are already mandated in the NABH protocols. All hospitals accredited to this body has to monitor these on a monthly basis. For good outcomes, these need to be broken down into daily metrics that need to be collated from each patient’s experience and outcome, analyzed against each process outcome. While this sounds daunting, this can be done very easily and I have done this over and over for a few hospitals now with very good results. While hospital information systems capture a lot of such data and provide reports, however this is easily doable manually as well with much more data. 

However, data collection is not enough, it is just a first step. Data looked at cohesively and converted into information needs to be used by respective process owners to understand what is happening and use this as an aid to manage the work on ground better. The information is meant to enable shopfloor managers to be assertive, take proactive actions so as to ensure the desired deliverables. 

9. How can healthcare organizations leverage quality improvement methodologies such as Lean, Six Sigma, or others to enhance patient care delivery processes?

All such initiatives deliver outcomes with efficiency of time, speed, quality, ergonomics. This creates value for the employee as well as patient. Work done easier without hassles by the employee, gives out same results for the patient as well – quality outcomes, on time services, value for money.

10. What strategies do you recommend for effectively managing patient safety and mitigating risks within healthcare systems, especially in complex clinical environments?

Keeping a close diligent eye on quality metrics on the operational front, investing in employee training and skill upgrade, spending on infra (civil, digital and medical equipment) maintenance, regular business risk assessments and mitigation which need varied action plans be they assessing payors to work with, medical programs to create, managing case mix, competition analysis, governance environment, and last but not the least, financial outcomes for all stakeholders.

11. How do you prioritize patient safety initiatives alongside other organizational goals, and what role does leadership play in fostering a culture of safety?

Patient safety is critical. I would link this upto business continuity itself, whether you look at this from a statutory perspective and clinical outcomes. In healthcare patient safety and outcomes are very tightly hinged. In clinical setting, safety needs to be looked from perspectives of physical and clinical care rendered. These are also areas which can easily get overlooked. The leadership’s eye on key safety parameters helps to ensuring these keep on track.

12. Lastly, what do you foresee as the most significant trends or challenges in optimizing patient care in the near future, and what advice would you give to healthcare leaders navigating these changes?

The concepts of ‘phygital’ care, with proper treatment protocols, need to be adopted by service providers. Add to these remote monitoring, built in wellness trackers, infra for advanced care etc are some of the things which will become very important. These can create immense value in clinical outcomes, time management, financial value etc both for organization as well as patients.

13. In conclusion, what do you believe are the key takeaways or actionable insights that healthcare professionals and organizations should prioritize to successfully optimize patient care within modern healthcare systems?

Healthcare organizations need to be built on principles of care, care for the employees, care for quality and care for ethics and this results in good care for patients.