Bridging the Practice Gap — A Continuing Medical Education Blog

Business Practice and Medical Quality Improvement

The aim of medical education is to improve the quality of patient outcomes, by improving the knowledge, strategy and performance of medical professionals. The way in which improvement is accomplished is often referred to as Quality Improvement and its closely related cousin, Process Improvement. Actually, the cousins go hand in hand, because you cannot improve quality without improving the process that leads to quality.

There is a third cousin involved in the improvement of patient outcomes, and that cousin is named Business Process Improvement. While we often don’t think of it this way, medical practices are businesses, and the same dynamics that effect businesses effect medical practices as well. I once worked for a not-for-profit educational consulting company, and some people there considered their work to be a mission, and bridled at the mention of the word business. I coined the canadian roulette phrase, “No money, no mission” to point out that the practical act of collecting fees is what kept them in business.

So too, with a medical practice, be it a small private practice or a large medical conglomerate with multiple hospitals and other practices, are subject to the same pressures as any other business. You are probably asking right now, how does this relate to improving patient outcomes? The answer is not all that vague! Many of the processes that must be improved in order to improve patient outcomes are actually business processes that are carried out by non-medical personnel.

For example, a patient visiting their doctor’s office must be scheduled, their records must be available to the physician who will see them. Information must be properly recorded following the visit, and so on. How many of you reading this have been frustrated by long waits, problems with information and other problems at your doctor’s office? I thought so! And we have all heard of the serious consequences when a business process, such as identifying the proper medication to be given a patient, breaks down.

None of these activities is specifically medical in nature, and all are business processes that have their parallel in other businesses. The conclusion I draw here is that when you are considering how to improve the quality of outcomes for patients, do not forget to look at the underlying business processes as well.

Question: What has been your experience improving medical quality by improving business process?


Kevin Callahan, CEO
PeerPoint Medical Education Institute
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