BOSTON — To some O&P business owners, the thought of implementing a formal quality system can bring on a headache, but it does not have to be as hard as it sounds. According to Andrew L. Ullman, BSME, MSM, of UCO International, not only can implementing a simplified formal quality system save your business money, it can also help your business stay focused on its main objective.
“A lot of companies tend to make [a formal quality system] that’s too cumbersome and they end up getting so wrapped up in procedures that they forget the purpose of the whole thing,” he said.
Benefits of a quality system
According to Ullman, a formal quality system is a group of policies, standards, systems, practices and tools to increase an organization’s effectiveness in dealing with quality matters. However, it is more than just a book or manual.
Implementing a quality system is important for both customer requirements and liability protection. For example, Medicare does not need to see your formal quality system, but if you do not have a formal quality system in place for documenting patient needs through physician notes you could have problems getting reimbursed by Medicare. Also, patients will have a harder time taking your business to court for an accident if you have all the appropriate documents, such as the information you provided to the patient and follow-up information. Other reasons to implement a formal quality system include improving the efficiency of your labor use, finding mistakes early and not wasting materials, reducing re-work, improving patient outcomes and more referrals.
The first step in establishing a formal quality system is to develop an objective and a mission statement. According to Ullman, the mission statement should be short and easy for everyone in the company to understand.
“It’s a good idea to have a mission statement be one sentence. If you can’t say it in one sentence and you can’t remember it, it’s probably not an appropriate mission statement,” Ullman said. “It’s something that you want all your employees to understand and be able to easily deploy through the organization.”
Defining specific performance measures and goals — such as financial measures, customer satisfaction measures, company growth measures and employee development measures — can help keep the mission stay focused on all aspects of the company, rather than just one or two objectives.
When deploying your formal quality system, make sure to communicate all directions and goals to your employees and define specific actions you want to take within the company. Develop tools to help meet your objectives and goals and allocate resources for the successful implementation of the tools. Some examples of tools that can be implemented include a structured referral form for physicians to fill out, a formal checklist to follow the production process, a procedure and checklist for inspection of incoming materials, and a computerized documentation/record keeping system and patient surveys to ensure patient satisfaction.
By keeping a quality manual, you can easily keep track of your mission, goals and tools.
“Everybody in the organization from top to bottom should understand what your quality system is trying to do and how it’s going to do it, so a manual is important,” Ullman said. “You want to have everything in a manual, but you want the manual to be a living guide for something that people are working on.”
Finally, it is important to train all employees in the use of the quality tools and to utilize the quality manual as part of everyday work. Your ongoing patience as the tools and procedures are implemented is crucial.
“One thing to try to keep in mind, benefits are not always immediate. If you want to have a formal quality system for your business, it can be something simple, but it’s still going to take effort and money. However, over time, you will really start to see a significant benefit,” Ullman said. — by Casey Murphy
Disclosure: Ullman has no relevant financial disclosures.