Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Software's Guiding Hand

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Software's Guiding Hand

Article excerpt

Few people in Healthcare dispute the merits of best practices. After all, what possibly could be better than best practices? Would anyone want to render interventions using "worst practices"?

Yet in most behavioral healthcare agencies best practices are detailed in policy/ procedure manuals gathering dust on shelves. No one refers to them because they are not readily available at the point of service. And even if someone looks them up, they usually are not written in a quick-to-read format. You could put best practice materials online, but that won't accomplish much-now you have readily accessible readerunfriendly information.

The answer is to convert best practice narratives into administrative and clinical processes that a software system interprets to guide patients along care pathways. This creates a process that can be monitored, controlled, and evaluated. Staff members no longer need to worry what the next intervention is, who should do it, where, when, or how. If we raise the bar a bit by positioning checklists at major milestones along care paths (e.g., chart reviews), it becomes difficult to inadvertently skip steps, miss steps, perform steps in the wrong sequence, or perform steps using the wrong resources.

If you are doing the right things the right way at the right time, using the right resources, and properly documenting interventions, your chances of being noncompliant with best practices will be reduced. Thus, categorizing interventions as "transactions" and automatically auditing them (i.e., continuous quality management) certainly are feasible and do not require more staff and expense.

This does not mean a software system is running the entire Healthcare servicedelivery process. Instead, the software helps identify when corrective action is needed. Without software, you discover problems after the fact; with software, you ensure there will be fewer problems to address. Exception reports become a lot less important because there are fewer exceptions.

Software is a marvelous tool, but you can't detect problems far enough ahead to prevent them all. Statistical analysis can't predict every problem. You know the saying: "If you torture statistics enough, they will tell you anything you want to hear. …

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