You don't know what you don't know!

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It's true, you really don't know what you don't know until you become aware of it. This is more than an amusing adage as it speaks to the need for information. Information that reveals factual data to create awareness. According to Google, awareness is the "knowledge or perception of a situation or fact." Ever wonder if something is really true? Your mind tells you one thing and your gut tells you another. Somehow the human heart negotiates between the two to make a decision. But how do you know if it's the right decision until you have all the information?

When data is collected and analyzed, it reveals truth and provides knowledge. What is something you'd like know? How about the demand and capacity of your healthcare organization? Would you like to know how many people in the population you serve need to be seen and how often? Would you like to know if these patients are being scheduled correctly? Would you like to know if your demand and capacity line up? Even if your gut had a crystal ball you would never be able to guess that information. What do you need? Data! And lots of it. Preferably a year's worth, and it can be pulled from your EMR. A year's worth of data to show the fluctuations from day to day, month to month, and season to season. For example, in the fall you know you're going to have a lot of flu vaccine appointments and sport physicals before school starts. Or maybe your data will show that Mondays are consistently over scheduled.

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Now that you have the data, what are you going to do with it? Here are some basic steps:

  • Sort the patient data by provider and appointment to create upper and lower control limits. You quite literally can see the demand over time; days, weeks, months, and seasons. (There is so much you can do with this information including the takt time of the practice. We will discuss this more later, but for now, let's stay focused on demand and capacity.)

  • Pull your EMR procedure list and sort them by time to create service families.

  • Perform a patient time study on procedure time.

  • Compare the appointment times against the actual visit time.

  • Perform a root cause analysis to determine why the appointment times and actual visit time do not match.

  • Create a countermeasure plan to address the service family deltas.

  • Complete another patient time study to confirm that procedures are now correctly organized within the service family.

  • Analyze how many clinical hours and compare against demand.

  • Perform a root cause analysis to determine why the schedule does not accommodate the population.

  • Create a countermeasure plan to address the demand and capacity deltas to adjust the work load and alleviate burnout.

We've all heard the term "data-driven decision making." Why has this become so popular in system thinking? Because without data you do not have the information you need to become aware of the situation and make the most informed decision. Data will back up any decision reliably. The numbers don't lie, but your gut can. Would you like to know what you don't know using data? Contact Infinitum, the healthcare transformation system that relies on data!

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References

Awareness, defined by Google. 26 February 2019. Web address: https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+of+awareness&rlz=1C1CHBD_en&oq=definition+of+awareness&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.4398j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#dobs=awareness