The 6-Step Service Line Maintenance Checklist

August 25, 2014
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Whether it’s your family car or the orthopedic service line, proper maintenance is essential to keep things running reliably and at a high performance level. Once you’ve built your program, sitting back and letting it run itself is not an option. Routine evaluation and tuning at monthly, semi-annual, and annual checkpoints are key to staying ahead of the competition and, more important, keeping up with patient expectations. Here’s a 6-step service line maintenance checklist to keep your program purring like a well-oiled machine:

Whether it’s your family car or the orthopedic service line, proper maintenance is essential to keep things running reliably and at a high performance level. Once you’ve built your program, sitting back and letting it run itself is not an option. Routine evaluation and tuning at monthly, semi-annual, and annual checkpoints are key to staying ahead of the competition and, more important, keeping up with patient expectations. Here’s a 6-step service line maintenance checklist to keep your program purring like a well-oiled machine:

  1. ImageCheck the Dashboard (at least monthly, if not weekly)
    Service line administrators should know how their programs are performing against key metrics, and these statistics should be available to review on at least on a monthly basis. They are also helpful to share with the team and c-suite leadership for setting goals and providing transparency into program performance. Track items like length of stay, infection rates, readmissions, patient satisfaction, variable costs, contribution margin, volume growth, discharge distribution, and functional outcomes. Focus on moving the essential needles – the ones that make the most impact.
     
  2. Do-It-Yourself Tune-Up (quarterly)
    This is the low hanging fruit that directors should be able to address quickly. When actionable feedback is collected on a routine basis from patients and staff members, orthopedic departments can jump on small opportunities for improvement. Front-line staff should feel empowered to bring these kinds of suggestions to team meetings – or better still, be able to act on inputs themselves – and managers should have the authority to make changes based on this information without the need for a complicated chain of approvals and committees.
     
  3. Winterize (annually)
    Whether its a strong flu season or a summer vacation for your high-volume surgeon, you know there are times where your service line operations get thrown out of whack. Do your best to set your program up for success ahead of these problem areas, rather than waiting until the last minute to address potential disruptions. Additionally, focus some preparation efforts on long range disruptors like new models of reimbursement and emerging technologies. Seek ways that you can prepare your program to be adaptable under new stressors and threats.
     
  4. Bumper-to-Bumper Inspection (at least annually)
    This is where you really need to look at the entire program from end-to-end including all the nitty gritty details. Once a year, walking through the service line experience from both the patient and staff perspectives can uncover bottlenecks, sources of frustration, and gaps in care coverage. Just like when you take your car into a mechanic, this kind of investigation may be best done by outside eyes who can uncover opportunities that internal staff may overlook.
     
  5. Address that Nagging Noise (as soon as possible)
    The occasional knocking sound in the engine. The squeaky rear left wheel. The indicator light that came on, but went away. We all have those little quirks in our cars that indicate something may be wrong, but we put off taking it in for service. What signals are present in your service line that you are procrastinating taking action on? Just like with a car, there is danger here in ignoring something that could go on to be a much bigger (and more expensive) problem down the line. Look at your “to-do” list and ask yourself, “Is there something I can do about this now?”
     
  6. Go Shopping (dependent on market)
    Eventually a complete program transformation may be needed to meet market demands. When small tweaks can no longer get you where you need to be, it may be time to look for new solutions. After all, no matter how much maintenance you provide, a Pontiac Vibe can never become a Ford Mustang or a Toyota Prius. Always keep an eye out for new ways of doing things. If an industry leader has adopted a new model that seems to be providing an advantage, it can be a signal to investigate whether something entirely new could work for you, too.

What other “tune-ups” do you find helpful in improving your service line performance? Let me know in the comments.

checklist / shutterstock

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