Can Positive Productivity Save Health Care?

by Richard D. Tinsley, CEO

Change is coming to our nation's health care in some form or another. Whatever form that change takes, the lowest cost provider with the highest quality will win. Improving productivity and curbing costs in the service areas of the hospital - the ancillary services - is essential. Intuitive hospital administrators are demanding better information and the tools of technology to improve productivity and prepare for the implications of possible shifts in the payment system.

Too often "productivity" conveys a negative, oppressive image. Yet, to save the quality of patient care, now more than ever, positive productivity is recognized as the solution for much that ails health care.

In an "ideal world", staff members know their jobs and what's expected of them. Goals are clearly communicated and understood. Progress is easily assessed. Performance reviews are timely and accurate, and overwhelmingly positive. The ancillary departments are busy. So what could possibly be wrong? Low productivity, dissatisfied patients, poor quality performance, operational inefficiencies and an unsatisfactory bottom line indicate the problems.

So where do you focus to get ancillary services to the highest quality with the lowest cost for today, and be strategically prepared to absorb imminent changes on the horizon? Positive productivity is easier, quicker and more affordable than you may think.

What You Need When You Need It
Total Productivity Track (TPT) is the leader in real time information for communication and reports for ancillary services. Secure and confidential, customized to the specifications of each client, TPT has a proven success record in best practice hospitals from coast to coast. TPT is a productivity guidepost for inter-department communications and reports targets and measurements with unprecedented ease and speed. Continuously gathering real time information enhances department and employee performance. The program pays for itself in benefits for all. To see the quality and simplicity of this valuable tool yourself, take a ride with a complimentary live demo online.

Total Productivity Track works with numerous ancillary departments who have found the TPT program to be the best management tool in the box. When the program is first introduced, the hardest truth for most directors and managers to grasp is the fact that successful leadership isn't the same skill set as good management. In fact, the leadership qualities that drove most directors to do extremely well in their health care career and to establish themselves as a manager of an ancillary service department - self-starter, driven to excel, highly focused, independent - may encounter problems effectively managing a staff. However, those same leadership characteristics can lead them to excel when using the TPT management tool.

It bears emphasis that TPT measures success and efficiency, not failure. Chances are your ancillary department directors want to do well. They're probably smart, caring people who have the skills to make a difference with the patients and the service. The independent TPT program will empower them to more clearly communicate specific targets, expectations and goals to each staff person. (They already know that telling each staff person "do your job and work hard" is not enough.)

Targets with Moving Parts
To insure consistent expectations and performance, it is vital to set and communicate specific targets. Consistency is extremely difficult to achieve in the health care workplace for one simple reason: there are a lot of people and moving parts in each and every day. For a director, having daily and monthly goals, and implementing month-to-date tracking, smoothes out the ups and downs of employees and patients. Both hospital administrators and directors welcome service operations that are stable and reliable.

Quality care is always the No.1 goal. Introducing a productivity program must begin by stressing quality, connecting the dots for the staff to recognize the close relationship between quality care and productivity. When the department runs like a well-oiled machine, patients are getting quality service and care. When staff members achieve their daily targets, quality and cost to the hospital will also be on target. That is the foundation for using the Total Productivity Track program that can lead administrators, directors and staff members to share in creating the much sought after "ideal world" to deal with changing health care environments.

Moving Forward
Any director of an ancillary department can testify that if the staff's not happy, no one's happy. A happy staff is a more productive staff. The reverse is also true: a productive staff is a happier staff.

The Five Essential Steps for Achieving an Ideal World for Ancillary Services (see below) provide an introductory overview for directors and staff members to understand the process and benefits of utilizing the TPT program.

Following administration's decision to adopt the TPT program and services, department heads contact TPT to arrange a date for implementation. As people will support that which they have a part in creating, goals and start-up details are designed on an individual basis. Ongoing customer support is assured.

Goals should allow staff members to achieve a greater degree of personal and professional independence. Understanding clearly what is expected of them and the importance of each person on their team, they are self-motivated to achieve their targets. As a result, more confident employees are more productive team members, sharing in their individual and overall successes and consistently fulfilling expectations.

If a new national health care plan is approved this year, it will take a very long period to overhaul the nation's health care system. But a choice must be made now. Leading hospital administrators understand that and are beginning their preparation now by evaluating their services, costs and productivity. The highest quality care will only be preserved by establishing positive productivity at the lowest cost.
Five Essential Steps for Achieving an Ideal World for Ancillary Services

1. Increase your knowledge
Install the Total Productivity Track program-TPT will do 95% of the setup. Departments will have a specific, reliable way to provide and track valuable information on a real time, continuous basis.

How many patients, procedures, tasks, etc. comprise your average volume each day? How much volume could you potentially service with your current staff? Presumably, you know what your cost-per-care-service is and you know what staff performance is capable of doing. But do you know what it costs to complete each service act? The software program will allow the staff to input daily activities, so you can obtain accurate real-time information and readily track the staff's performance and the costs to the department.

2. Measure productivity all the time
Too often, measuring productivity is used as a punishment. Someone falls down on the job, and then you scrutinize and monitor performance as a probationary exercise. Productivity may rise in the short-term, but it's often only a matter of time before it trails off again. All you've really accomplished is to create a negative reinforcement for the entire staff.

Positive productivity is an ongoing measurement of success, not failure. It emphasizes what is commendable. Employees are encouraged and develop positive work habits as they strive to achieve individual targets. Measuring successful productivity becomes as commonplace as ordering supplies or turning in time cards.

3. Use benchmarks
Compare your staff's productivity to the overall hospital ancillary service world. With TPT you can compare your staff to the "average" employee in your particular service area on a national basis in terms of targets and cost to produce a completed care service or procedure. Communicate benchmark information to your staff so they have the same perspective. Productivity shouldn't be a guessing game. It should be concrete and measurable. When you use benchmarks and targets, your staff won't think that you're making up arbitrary goals.

4. Go high tech
Make your job easier and success more attainable. Choose a technology service that has a proven success record in best practice hospitals across the country. Total Productivity Track knows ancillary services. TPT is tailored to the needs and goals of each client, providing secure, confidential, real-time information that tracks productivity and all non-chargeable activities and projections. The TPT program allows staff members to input their individual information and view their daily progress toward targets. You are able to quickly provide factual information to the staff and reduce possibilities for miscommunication regarding goals and progress.

5. Reward success
"Catch people doing something right." Reward your staff for staying on track, meeting their targets, providing quality service and keeping the ancillary department running smoothly.

Richard D. Tinsley is Founder and CEO of Total Productivity Track™, a VHA-Central endorsed company.

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