It took time, persistence and patience to implement these changes and measure their impact, but the experience was necessary in order for the system to improve. “It was a lot of work,” Schiltz said. “We needed to upgrade policies, education, products. We needed to get everybody reset.”
Although product variation was a major factor in Riverside’s lack of standardization, it wasn’t the only one. The system couldn’t have accomplished its multi-faceted standardization plan without a partner that could also improve the care process.
“Medline is truly not just a product or education company,” Mutterer said. “We believe our partnership is deeper than that. Medline offers a partnership with the ability to advance our ability to treat patients. A product-only company just sends you the products.”
Standardization of any complex system isn’t easy, Mutterer noted, but it teaches executives a lot about the organization they think they know well. “Coming into the project, I believed that because we are a healthcare system we were more standardized than we actually were. It was eye-opening to me as a CNO to see how different all areas of our organization were. None were right or wrong. They were just different.”
Addressing those inconsistencies was clearly possible, but very challenging, Mutterer said. “The span of control was all within my reach. The difficulty we had was getting people to see and understand why we were doing it. We had to help people across the care process understand we were doing this for the betterment of our patients, for quality and for the continuum of healthcare in our system.”
Bill Douglas, CFO of Riverside, said measuring the success of the project wasn’t difficult because he predicts the system’s financial results based on its quality indicators, which improved. “Nonetheless, the return on investment for standardization can’t necessarily be measured on cost or quality indicators alone,” he said.
“My common sense tells me that a well-run wound care program will improve quality indicators, reduce intake, improve quality of life for the community and make physicians happier,” Douglas said. “My ROI is all of those things coming out in a positive fashion. I’m a happy CFO. I can’t put an exact dollar figure on it, but I can tell you intuitively it is huge. It’s bigger than we even believe.”