Thought Leadership

How Cognosante uses process improvement to make healthcare work better

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Author: Dana Voss
Dana Voss

October 18, 2017

At Cognosante, we work to provide our customers with transformative solutions. We constantly look for ways to deliver on our core mission: to improve the U.S. healthcare system through a fundamentally different approach to information technology and customer service.

One way Cognosante achieves that goal is through a deep commitment to process improvement, a powerful and proven strategic planning methodology. Process improvement identifies the operations, planning, and skills that can help streamline business processes and reduce waste. We’ve found it to be especially effective when applied to healthcare.

A short history

Process improvement has its roots in Henry Ford’s automotive assembly line from the early 20th century. It reduced production time for a Model T to just 93 minutes by dividing the process into 45 discrete steps. Each step could then be measured and undergo a series of improvements.

Eventually, other industries adopted process improvement strategies, recognizing the value of working smarter, not harder. But it’s only recently that these methodologies have moved to healthcare.

Starting with the customer

All of Cognosante’s process improvement initiatives begin and end with the customer in mind. We’re always thinking about what our customers want and how we can best deliver what they need, when they need it.

That’s why we train our employees and even some of our customers in process improvement. Some Cognosante employees are already certified in Lean Six Sigma, one of the leading process improvement methodologies. This collaborative approach improves performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variability.

The right people and the right tools

Cognosante further refines these processes to address the unique challenges of healthcare. In traditional Lean Six Sigma, every process improvement follows a strict methodology that usually takes six months or more to implement. But in healthcare, and especially in clinical environments, six months can be a long time—far too long, for example, for someone to wait on the approval of an important medical procedure.

So Cognosante has adopted Lean Six Sigma 2.0, a streamlined approach that reduces the six-month timetable to a few weeks. We bring the right people together and select a tool that makes sense—the simpler the tool, the better. This approach makes us more agile as we build our solutions. It helps us design leaner healthcare systems and processes that better serve our customers, all of whom need solutions quickly.

In all of our process improvement initiatives, we look for the right tool for the job, choosing from instruments such as process mapping, data collection, risk analysis, and solution prioritization. One especially effective risk management tool for customers is Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). It allows us to identify how a process could fail, how severe a failure would be, how likely failure is, and what controls might help prevent or mitigate the concern. FMEA allows us to rank opportunities by risk. We then focus on the largest potential improvements with the confidence that we’re addressing critical areas for our customers.

Back to the customer

Cognosante has seen some dramatic results from our commitment to process improvement. Several parts of our company have improved productivity by 20 percent or more. Those gains result from providing the right tools and training to make meaningful process improvements. We’ve also significantly reduced risk for some of our clients and internal departments because of targeted process improvements.

In the end, these efforts all focus on the customer, whether it’s a benefit recipient, healthcare provider, or state Medicaid services division. We constantly think about what our clients and customers want, the problem they’re trying to solve, and whether our solution is effective. That focus is one of the things I enjoy most about our process improvement work. We always tie it back to our customers.

 

Dana Voss

Director, Quality Management