Reducing Routine 'Tasks' Can Help Put Patients First

March 5, 2018

Looking for a way to lessen administrative burden at your practice? Start with putting the patients first.

The burden of administrative tasks and the effects on physician practices are well documented. Shari Erickson, vice president of governmental affairs and medical practice at the American College of Physicians (ACP), believes putting patients first and implementing a culture of improvement can help practices overcome those administrative burdens.

"A culture of improvement means [a practice] is constantly looking at ways to improve, and empowering those within to do that as well," says Erickson, whose session “Putting Patients First by Reducing Administrative Tasks” is scheduled for March 9 at 2:30 p.m. during the 2018 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS) conference held in Las Vegas. 

During the presentation, Erickson will convey findings from the ACPs Patients Before Paperwork initiative, unveiled in 2015 with the goal of reducing excessive administrative "tasks" across health care to the benefit of practices of all sizes.

"We chose to call them tasks instead of burdens. There are intensions behind all of these tasks, and then there's the impact and the solution," Erickson says.

What practices have done in the past is address administrative issues only as they come up, according to Erickson. "We found that [method] to be what I call a whack-a-mole approach. Meaning, something comes up and then it's addressed. But, what we want practices to do is a take a more comprehensive, cohesive approach to improving the lives of clinicians and their patients."

Patients need to come first, says Erickson, and improving workflows will improve their experience.

"This can also benefit physicians. By improving the issues patients face, that gets an intrinsic motivation going for the clinicians themselves. That's why they went into medicine," she says.

The Patients Before Paperwork initiative provides recommendations for stakeholders external to the organization, including CMS, private payers, health IT organizations, and accreditation entities.

"We focus on what can be done by these external entities in collaboration with the physicians in practice," says Erickson.

If an external stakeholder wants to change a process or regulation, they need to think about what that means for practices, according to Erickson. "Their intentions may be good, but there's not always a lot of thought as to what the changes will mean on the front lines."

The ACP’s initiative also provides tips for inside the practice walls. "For example, if the front desk staff notices something is not working efficiently, they can implement a new process to improve the issue," says Erickson.

Practices need to know they have the power to make changes internally, according to Erickson. "These changes can be challenging, but there is some power they have to do some improvement within their own walls to hopefully mitigate some of the impact of these tasks while we work to improve them externally."

Finally, Erickson's presentation will touch on the challenge of separating administrative tasks between what's really needed and what's not, to achieve the desired intent.