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Technology Won’t Fix Inefficient Processes


Want to implement new technologies or maximize your current systems? According to expert Cindy Dunn, you need to fix your work flow inefficiencies first and use new technologies as tools to help solve underlying process issues. Here’s how to do it.

Practices that think technology is a magic bullet solution to fundamental work flow problems usually find themselves disappointed. So argued practice management expert Cindy Dunn at the MGMA 2010 annual conference Tuesday.

“Technology will help,” Dunn said, “but it’s not the answer. You have to fix your work flow and process issues before you can really make new technology work for your practice.”
Dunn, an RN and senior consultant for MGMA, suggested that to run a successful practice, physicians and administrators need to change their mindsets and shift from just managing results to managing process and results.

“If you find you or other staff are blaming people for problems, it is always actually a process problem,” advised Dunn. She suggested examining all of your processes carefully to improve quality and eliminate waste.

Dunn defined waste as any activities that do not add value to the practice. Some of the consequences of waste, she noted, are under-utilized employees, ineffective responses to errors, missing information, increased wait times for patients and employees, and inefficient transfer of information.

One common area of wasted time Dunn pointed out is poorly functioning equipment: “Employees need equipment that works. Period.” When employees have slow equipment, it wastes time. And you’re paying for their time. Would you rather pay a single time for a needed equipment upgrade, or pay staff to sit around waiting for their computers to respond?

Many practices also fail to value time when it comes to processes and their employees. One practice told Dunn that it didn’t use real-time claims adjudication because it cost 25 cents a patient and they had as many as 200 patients a week. They were having their billing staff submit claims the same old way to avoid that 25-cent charge. But when Dunn helped them do the math for the billing staff’s salaries, it turned out that each biller was paid between 32 and 41 cents a minute. So every minute they spent working on claims that could have been processed immediately at the front desk at the time of service for 25 cents, they were actually losing money.

The goal, Dunn suggested, is to figure out how to add technology tools to your practices that give you more time and more accuracy - which then leads to better patient care.

To be successful, work flow processes must change as your practice moves forward with technologies, and Dunn advises that this requires administrators to engage providers in improving office efficiencies and create team commitment to new technologies and work flows.


Abigail Beckel is managing editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at abigail.beckel@ubm.com.


For more MGMA 2010 conference coverage, be sure to visit our MGMA Conference Insider page.

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