A Guide To Using Process Improvement In Your Home Health Agency

Are you able to change quickly enough to keep pace with your competition? There are more factors today than ever before that are impacting the home health agency revenue cycle. Healthcare Reform and Meaningful Use have accelerated the pace of change, are you keeping up?

To be continuously successful, you must always have an action plan in place for growth. An integral part of that plan needs to be process improvement. That includes uncovering the defects that are holding your agency back.This is where you get honest with yourself and ask the difficult questions. Does this process add value? Are we performing rework? Are these reports/task non-value added work? By doing so, you can now build your strategic road map.

We have outlined the steps to take when running a process improvement project. There are many different approaches, I find a combination of Six Sigma and Change Acceleration Process to be the most effective at delivering true measurable benefits.

Below we have outlined the fundamentals of Six Sigma.Fotolia_83765649_XS


This is the blueprint of the strategy. It will set the tone for what you are trying to accomplish. You aren’t looking to solve world hunger here, take one problem at a time. You need to assess your current state and identify those areas where you feel you have inefficiency. It will be important in this phase to gather the voice of the customer (the good, the bad and the ugly). You should also conduct an assessment on the strengths and weaknesses of your own business as well as competitors.


At this point you want to define the quantitative measures of your performance. You might want to look at key performance indicators such as readmission rates, compliance, cash flow, ROI etc. You have to establish a baseline by which you will measure improvements in the process. You may look at changes in market share, readmissions, website visits, increased sales all as indicators that will be relevant to a growth plan. Remember, you can’t change what you don’t measure.



This is the fun part (at least it is for me). You will now use the data that you have collected and to understand the root cause of the difference in performance, competitor and market strategies. You will be looking under the hood and taking things apart to get a true understanding of your market position. It is at this point that you will have the clarity to get laser focused on the areas that need improvement and further attention.



You don’t create a strategy once and then never visit it again. You now have your clear road map to follow. Your strategy must be continuously reviewed and improved to stay on track with market trends, customer changes and economic and technical factors (maybe a new EMR search?)



You want to closely monitor the performance and strategy to make sure everything is on track. My control freaks are going to love this. I like to use what is called an FMEA (failure mode effect analysis). Basically it means thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong and creating contingency plans. It’s important to create a culture of accountability so that the changes are properly implemented and adhered to.

By using Six Sigma methodologies in your home health agency, you can improve processes, reduce costs and improve patient, employee and provider satisfaction.

Other topics like this will be discussed at NAHC Annual Conference next week in Nashville. If you will be there, stop by booth #409 to learn more about Thornberry and our Best in KLAS EMR, NDoc.