Ohio change team asks: Why are we collecting these forms and why now?

Submitted by: 09/06/2017 by Maureen Fitzgerald

When Stacy Soria was getting ready to start a new job as the Associate Director of Continuous Quality Improvement at Recovery Resources in spring 2017, she knew she wanted additional training in process improvement. After considering different training options, she decided on the Spring 2017 NIATx Change Leader Academy.

Recovery Resources, a community mental health organization, operates three sites in northeast Ohio, offering a full continuum of mental health, substance use disorder treatment, integrated healthcare, prevention and recovery support services. The organization also provides problem gambling and HIV/AIDS prevention programs. First established in 1955, today Recovery Resources has nearly 200 employees, serving thousands of adults and adolescents Ohioans each year.

Stacy says that the eight-hour drive to Madison to attend the NIATx Change Leader Academy was well worth it. She left the two-day training inspired and ready to use her new NIATx skills to assemble a team and start testing changes. The NIATx flowchart tool was especially helpful for Stacy’s first change project.

Why are we collecting this paperwork and why now?   

Stacy and her team wanted to reduce waiting time at the intake process from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. She developed an “as-is” flow chart after interviewing five staff about the steps involved with intake and the insurance verification process.

Her initial flowchart was large and complicated, showing the existing intake process with its many steps and hand-offs between departments. After consulting with NIATx coach Scott Gatzke, Stacy broke the process down by department, creating a flowchart for each department (intake and finance). This allowed the change team to analyze each area and identify bottlenecks, redundant steps, extra paperwork, and inefficient workflows.

“The flowchart gave us a way to visualize what was happening,” says Stacy. “It really helped identify opportunities to close the loop on some of our processes.”  

Using the flowchart tool highlighted an important lesson for the team.

“We want to make sure that we are providing client-centered care and that that entire intake process isn’t primarily focused on what the agency needs, but focused on what the client needs,” notes Stacy. “And as a group, we didn’t know collectively how the client was experiencing the whole process. We started to ask, “Why are we collecting this paperwork and why now?”

What’s more, staff members involved began to talk to each other about their roles in the process—some cases, for the first time. Another discovery: after contacting the state agencies, Stacy and her team learned that three of the “mandated” forms they’ve been collecting are no longer required.

A TEAM Effort: Together Everyone Achieves More

Response to NIATx was so positive that Stacy gave each member of her change team a copy of the book: NIATx: Process Improvement for Behavioral Health. She’s planning to use the NIATx approach as the framework for building a culture of continuous process improvement at Recovery Resources. This initiative, called Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) will extend the focus on quality throughout the entire agency.

“We’re looking forward to using the NIATx approach beyond the QI department and infusing it throughout the agency,” says Stacy. “We are truly focused on good client outcomes, and continuous quality improvement is what will get us there.” 

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