This article is sponsored by MatrixCare. In this Voices interview, Home Health Care News sits down with MatrixCare Director of Professional Services John Sozio to learn about his work in continuous improvement in health care and why the Lean Six Sigma philosophy of continuous improvement, designed for manufacturing, works well in health care. During the interview, Sozio also discussed how managing key performance indicators (KPIs) is changing home health care.
HHCN: You’ve been at MatrixCare for going on four years now. Describe your professional journey. How did you reach this point?
Sozio: I started as an EMR trainer about 20 years ago on the physician side of the business. I jumped to the home health and hospice world pretty quickly and started to learn a business that was completely foreign to me, which was interesting. After a few years working on the home health side — and after a few company consolidations and a few promotions — I was able to land a job that opened my eyes to huge possibilities as it relates to driving better customer business outcomes.
I was introduced to the world of Lean Six Sigma and how those concepts could be used to measure adoption, productivity and quality. I had a couple of really good mentors who modeled successful behavior. I was fortunate enough to end up in a leadership position where I could apply the Lean Six Sigma concepts internally as well as externally, and learned how to apply those years of experience, a great team and good tools creates exceptional outcomes.
Among your focuses at MatrixCare is working with clients on continuous improvement efforts. Give us some background on MatrixCare. What is its mission?
I joined Matrixcare about four years ago. When I did, I was fortunate to be able to bring people with me who I had worked with who had a continuous improvement mindset and have worked in that environment for many years. We set out to create an implementation group based on those principles — not only with customers, but internally as well. We want constantly to practice continuous improvement principles so when we are engaging with customers it is second nature to lean on those values.
In other words, we really want to walk the walk. Our mission as it relates to continuous improvement is to use data to steer people, process and technology to get the best possible outcomes. We also want to direct our customers to pick up the continuous improvement mantle and run with it.
For someone who has never heard the term, “continuous improvement” might sound simple. Yet it might also sound vague. Define the value of continuous improvement for the health care business?
Continuous improvement allows you to objectively advance your organization in the direction you wish to go by focusing on and addressing issues that are inhibiting your growth. By taking measurements and course correcting incrementally, you reach your goals.
You know the adage: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The value of incremental change works in a couple of ways. By changing processes slowly, you gain understanding of what alleviates pain points and what does not. Incremental change also allows you to practice sound change management techniques, which helps you bring along those who may be resistant to change. Kind of like the boiling-the-frog scenario.
There are many ways to implement continuous improvement — you use the Lean Six Sigma framework, which came from manufacturing. How does this system translate to the world of health care? Why use it there?
Any time you can eliminate defects and remove variability from processes you will have better outcomes. Eliminating waste of any type will allow you to be more cost effective and in turn more efficient. All that said, in the health care industry, just like in some manufacturing businesses, defects have real world consequences. Whether it be building a plane or treating a patient, you want to eliminate every defect possible. Lean Six Sigma techniques help you capture those defects upfront, remove variation and drive efficiencies.
The MatrixCare professionals handling continuous improvement efforts with clients are Lean Six Sigma-certified. What does that mean, and how does that certification help health care providers?
Being Lean Six Sigma-certified means that you have gone through rigorous training, you’ve been tested and have taken part in — as well as led — continuous improvement projects with significant positive outcomes. Our resources have been steeped in the health care world for so long that their mindset and talents are the same as our customers. We don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but we pride ourselves on asking the right questions.
Explain your process of continuous improvement. How do your certified Lean Six Sigma practitioners turn data into KPI in order to drive results that health care professionals need?
Both internally and with our customers, we strive to optimize people, processes and technology to get desired results. You cannot go on the continuous improvement or optimization journey unless you are able to measure where you are today and create a plan for where you want to be tomorrow. KPIs are the way to do that — to objectively measure the health of a process or a business.
We help our customers identify which KPIs are important to them. After agreeing that these KPIs are the most helpful to drive their business, we teach them how to measure their performance. That discovery work with customers helps to create optimal processes to drive efficiencies all being measured by those KPIs.
Specifically, how do you apply those techniques to your continuous improvement plan, and what is the connection to your Outcomes Based Implementation model?
We’ve created what we call an Outcomes Based Implementation model. This is where we collect a customer’s KPI during the discovery phase of the implementation to understand what measurements are important to them as a business. During the implementation, we keep track of these KPIs using a scorecard, and use that data to help our customers focus their attention where it is most needed.
When customers see objective data, it is hard for them to dispute or dismiss what they are seeing. Many customers want to tell us what they think is happening and when we show them the data they are completely surprised that what they thought and what the data say are 180 degrees apart. It’s a real eye-opener to those who guide their businesses on gut instinct.
Continuous improvement is not finite. There is no ending. It is ongoing forever. What is the benefit to health care providers of that kind of “sustain the gain” mindset?
The concept of “sustain the gain” simply means, “Pay attention to your actions and mindset that allowed you to grow and have success. Take measurements and use the data to course correct where it’s needed.” Most importantly, use these tools that allowed you to be successful, and realize you can always improve.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
MatrixCare is the only EHR provider in the industry to focus on the entire senior care continuum, dedicated to helping providers improve operational efficiencies and provide exceptional care. To learn more about how MatrixCare can help your organization implement its continuous improvement goals, visit MatrixCare.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].