MGMA: Patient Safety Checklists Cut Costs at Physician Practices

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , October 26, 2011

Physician groups looking to make their practices more efficient and increase their bottom lines should develop patient safety lists that address emergent events and routine activities. That's the advice of Elizabeth Wertz Evans, RN, the executive director of professional practice for the Oncology Nursing Society in Pittsburgh.

Speaking in Las Vegas during a session at the annual conference of the Medical Group Management Association, Wertz admonished the audience members who didn't think that they had time for checklists to consider that The Johns Hopkins Hospital has saved $2 million with a five-item checklist that reminds hospital personnel to first wash their hands.

"Every physician office is trying to be more efficient. Checklists can be a simple effort that can save a practice time and money," said Wertz.

She noted that checklists have been developed across many industries -- most notably aviation. "What we know from other industries is that developing a checklist clarifies processes so the same steps are taken each time. It establishes priorities, makes sure everything that needs to get done gets done, and it reduces errors." She added that it can also prompt the physician office staff to function better as a team.

During the session, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Wertz provided a checklist of her own, which describes four steps a physician group should take as it develops checklists for an office practice.

1.Develop the best checklist for the task

Wertz explained that some checklists are "do-confirm" while others are "read-do." Do-confirm is a memorized list that is often used to address an emergency where staff needs to jump into a task—a patient faints in the waiting room, for example.

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1 comments on "MGMA: Patient Safety Checklists Cut Costs at Physician Practices"

Emilie J DiChristina MBA CPHQ (10/28/2011 at 1:19 PM)
This was a great article and I hope that both physicians and practice managers take the few minutes necessary to read it. Last week I had the opportunity to address the subject of Quality and meeting quality indicators to a large group of physicians, most from relatively small practices. One of my major points was that reliance on technology is dominating the office lately, and yet for want of checklists, process flow charts, and other basic steps, the technology is often wasted money and wasted effort for all parties. As I read your article I thought o fthe very basic act of LOOKING AT THE PATIENT when registering him or her for the visit. How often are staff members so engrossed in updating a new PM or EMR, getting all the fields completed just right that they forget to look up, smile and observe. Perhaps a checklist that starts with Look up, smile and observe the patient's overall condition would increase customer satisfaction, make the staff remember that there is a person involved AND perhaps even stop the fainting, heart attack or hypoglycemic episode from occuring in the waiting room.




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