Five Change Management Strategies to Optimize Ambulatory Care Operations

Article Summary

Healthcare leaders can unlock the full potential of their ambulatory clinics by leveraging change management strategies and best practices, leading to enhanced operational efficiency, improved patient outcomes, and a culture of continuous improvement.

Five Change Management Strategies to Optimize Ambulatory Care Operations - Health Catalyst

This article is based on a webinar entitled “Unlock the Secrets to Optimizing Ambulatory Operations Efficiency and Change Management,” presented by Sarah Roberts, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, SVP, Ambulatory Practice Management, and Joanna Laucirica, Ambulatory Practice Management Improvement Specialist of Health Catalyst.

The modern ambulatory care environment is fast-paced, and patients demand technology-driven experiences to improve wait times and support a faster, more efficient outpatient experience.

Industry experts Sarah Roberts, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Practice Management, and Joanna Laucirica, Ambulatory Practice Management Improvement Specialist, both of Health Catalyst, said clinics can achieve optimal patient flow, clinical efficiencies, and better outcomes management by addressing healthcare data and analytics needs. This approach can improve various areas of a clinic’s operations, including facility utilization, provider and patient scheduling, and staff time management and productivity, they explained.

In a recent webinar, the duo shared effective change management strategies using technology to support these operational efficiencies. They also discussed how to leverage data and analytics to achieve peak ambulatory care performance.

Three Challenges Impacting Ambulatory Care Today

Ambulatory care continues to provide crucial services to patients outside of traditional hospital settings. Yet, clinics must overcome three widespread challenges:

  • Long wait times,
  • Poor or inconsistent patient communications, and
  • Inefficient check-in processes.

These issues contribute to low patient satisfaction scores.

Underpinning these challenges are inefficient time management and lagging access to data, preventing organizations from moving the needle in improvement areas. That said, modern data and analytics technology can streamline clinical processes to facilitate greater efficiency and satisfaction gains.

Minimize Wait Times and Address Patient Flow Gaps Using Data and Analytics

Moving patients through clinic services can be time-consuming and, in many cases, frustrating for patients. If not managed effectively, it impacts the patient’s experience at every touch point, including pre-registration to the clinical encounter.

Roberts and Laucirica highlighted a few approaches that they’ve observed can improve administration and patient intake flow, including:

  • Electronic check-ins to reduce administrative bottlenecks and minimize patient wait times.
  • Staggered appointment times to limit overcrowding in waiting rooms.
  • Transparent communication between office staff and patients to set realistic expectations for their visit.

With these tactics in mind, health systems can leverage various technologies to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of ambulatory care. For example, they can utilize mobile kiosks to minimize paperwork, employ mobile apps for quicker online check-ins and pre-registration, and implement real-time patient monitoring to generate valuable data for analytic purposes.

Ambulatory care can also leverage technology to optimize space and schedule management effectively. By utilizing advanced software and data analytics tools, when combined with EHRs, clinics can analyze patient flow patterns, peak hours, and staff availability to ensure an appropriate allocation of resources and manage underutilized or overutilized spaces.

“As we leverage the power of technology, our clinics can automate manual tasks, allowing them to work more effectively. This can help create a more efficient and patient-centered performing clinic.”

Sarah Roberts, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, SVP, Ambulatory Practice Management

Bolster Daily Huddles and Staff Productivity Using Digital Tools

Many webinar attendees indicated that their clinic conducts daily huddles, which are brief, focused team meetings to align priorities at the beginning of the day. These huddles have proven to improve communication, provide a structured platform for sharing information, discuss patient needs and problem-solving, foster team collaboration, and cultivate shared accountability.

To make these daily briefs more meaningful, however, experts offered the following tips:

  1. Utilize technology to enable remote participation and collaboration through tools like forms or surveys.
  2. Employ shared dashboards to display real-time data, metrics, and action items to easily track priorities and progress.
  3. Develop a clear agenda for each huddle that concentrates on priority items. Keep huddles brief, lasting no longer than 15 minutes.
  4. Encourage involvement from all participants to ensure everyone contributes.
  5. Assign action items to create accountability, identify key takeaways, and delegate responsibilities for follow-up goals.

Leverage Visual Management Boards to Improve Accountability

Lastly, visual management boards serve as a powerful tool for driving accountability within clinics, aiding in the identification of effective change management strategies that focus on continuous improvement.

These boards prominently showcase key metrics such as patient satisfaction scores, patient volume, and wait times in a visually engaging and easily accessible format for staff.

By automating data points and ensuring data accuracy, these displays play a crucial role in holding staff accountable for meeting performance indicators related to care management. This contributes to real-time decision-making and adjusting to enhance operational efficiency.

When setting up a visual management dashboard, Laucirica and Roberts said clinics should consider the following metrics:

  • Patient Volume
  • Patient Wait Times
  • Patient Satisfaction 
  • Quality Measures (i.e., preventive screenings)

Five Change Management Strategies to Optimize Ambulatory Care Operations

In closing, the panel acknowledged that change is challenging, unsettling, and daunting; however, they assured attendees that executing change management strategies, combined with robust healthcare data and analytics, can ensure ambulatory care clinics evolve to meet the future demands of healthcare.

Roberts and Laucirica implored practice leaders to commit to ambulatory care growth with the following tenets in mind:

  1. Communicate the vision. Clearly communicate the vision behind the changes being implemented, explaining their significance and how they align with broader strategic goals.
  2. Involve staff. Involving staff in the process by celebrating achievements, big or small, helps foster buy-in and appreciation.  
  3. Address staff concerns head-on. Empathy and understanding are essential to overcoming challenges, and it is important to address any resistance or concerns to change.
  4. Incorporate visuals, training, and technical support. Integrating appropriate technologies into training and support materials equips staff with the necessary tools for success.
  5. Lead by example! Leading by example through a positive, data-driven mindset emphasizes the importance of improving experiences at the core of any organizational change initiative.

“Effective change management can be difficult. Let’s be honest: change is hard. It’s daunting and unsettling. Be clear about what is changing and why it’s happening. People like to know why. Explain how these changes will benefit the clinic.”

Joanna Laucirica, Ambulatory Practice Management Improvement Specialist

Additional Reading

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Here are some articles we suggest:

Ambulatory Analytics Optimize Practice Management

Virtual Care Analytics Supports Rapid Change in Ambulatory Care Delivery

Restarting Ambulatory Care and Elective Procedures: Analytics Guide Safe, Pragmatic Decisions

Responding and Recovering in Clinic Operations with Advanced Analytics

Three Priorities Driving Population Health Management Toward Better Data Capture

Charting the Future of Healthcare Data: Critical Market Insights

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