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Auto pilot: Good for jumbo jets, bad for population health

Most of us aspire to having “auto pilots” in our lives. But, when it comes to driving successful clinical quality measure improvement programs, auto pilot can hurt more than it helps.

Most of us aspire to having “auto pilots” in our lives: a thermostat that regulates the heat in our house, Outlook calendars that remind us that meetings are coming up, perhaps a coffee maker that starts itself just before you wake up. And airline pilots responsible for jumbo jets with hundreds of passengers appropriately rely on an auto pilot while they monitor important metrics and other aspects of the plane. However, auto pilot doesn’t make sense in all cases. When it comes to driving successful clinical quality measure (CQM) improvement programs, auto pilot can hurt more than it helps.

My last two blog posts discussed key imperatives that can drive successful CQM programs. From targeting the most impactful measures to engaging patients through their preferred channels, we’ve covered six of eight important steps. My last two steps involve avoiding staying on auto pilot when it comes to successful CQM improvement programs.

Continually Evaluate and Adjust Messages and Channels

It’s essential that you continually measure and adjust strategies over time to drive the best outcomes. You can’t just “set and forget” your outreach approach.

If response to a program encouraging patients to get a flu immunization is low, evaluate whether your message is both educational and compelling.

  • Are you being specific enough about the action you want them to take?
  • Is there an easy way to schedule a flu shot directly from your message?
  • Are you using the right channel to reach your Medicaid population?

Taking all these factors into account will enable you to adjust your approach over time to achieve a better response.

Determine Baselines, Key Indicators and Reporting

Before you begin to implement a CQM program, establish your methodology for assessing its success.

First, establish a performance baseline for each measure you’re targeting, a stated goal, and an estimated timeline. This will allow you to easily assess your progress. If possible, now is a good time to benchmark your compliance against peer organizations.

Next, determine the key indicators you want to measure. Consider both demographics and channel performance metrics.

Tracking the right indicators will allow you to evaluate what’s working—which populations respond best, over which channel, at what cost, etc. Based on performance data, you’ll be able to test and evolve your outreach strategies over time, optimizing them by population to increase your patient engagement rates.

Finally, decide how you will report results. Consider frequency, audience, and format. For those actively engaged in executing CQM programs, you may want to informally report detailed results every month, so key learning can be quickly shared and leveraged. Broader staff updates, reporting high-level, directional results, could be distributed quarterly to communicate progress and maintain enthusiasm.

Take the First Step Today

Of the eight imperatives I’ve written about, these may seem like the least groundbreaking or impactful, but they’re just as important to the success of your program. Don’t let an auto pilot crash your program into the side of a mountain – or something to that effect…

It’s both an exciting and challenging time in the healthcare industry. As we move away from payment models that reward volume-based, transactional treatment toward an “accountable care” approach, a landmark opportunity is created: to be rewarded for providing better care and improving the overall health of our patient populations. The first step in creating change is to identify a core group of high-impact CQMs that will be the focus of your initiatives.

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Vance Clipson

About Vance Clipson

Vance Clipson, senior principal, industry solutions for Nuance Communications, focuses on vertical-specific strategy and marketing with an emphasis on healthcare, financial services and government. Clipson brings 25 years of experience translating industry needs and data into market strategy and programs for Milliman, PacifiCare Health Systems and other organizations.