Every nurse’s goal is to provide their patients with the best possible care, resulting in ideal clinical outcomes. Achieving this noble goal requires not only advanced nursing skills but also an infrastructure that makes it easy to use organizational resources as efficiently as possible. Many health care organizations have begun emphasizing high-value care to unite the principles of superior patient outcomes with optimal efficiency.
How can nurses actually put the tenets of high-value care to work in their hospital or practice? Earning an advanced degree, with coursework on up-to-date concepts in nursing and health administration, is an important step in the process.
What Is High-Value Care?
Health care professionals who focus on providing high-value care seek to “improve health, avoid harms, and eliminate wasteful practices,” according to the American College of Physicians. Providing high-value care may also be understood as an effort to give patients the best care for the best price, achieving the most ideal outcome given the patient’s circumstances.
The foundational goal of providing the best care possible at the lowest cost possible has led to more effective, streamlined care strategies that encourage proactive patient care and reduce patient and facility costs. Emphasizing high-value care has also led providers to rethink all aspects of their profession; indeed, a number of elements are associated with this clinical practice, including:
- Equitable access to care
- Quality-focused payment models
- Effective information technology (IT) systems, allow providers to quickly access the information they need to make the most informed decisions about treatment
Examples of High-Value Care
To understand how these principles impact the day-to-day work of nurses and doctors, it may be helpful to consider some examples.
- Taking X-rays or other medical images after the onset of lower back pain will rarely have an impact on how a patient is treated. Thus, this common practice is generally considered a waste of resources that also exposes patients to needless radiation risk, according to a report in the journal Nursing Outlook. In a high-value model, providers will skip this imaging unless they have compelling evidence to suggest it’s necessary.
- If sinusitis does not clear up within a week or so, that usually means it’s caused by something other than a bacterial infection. As a result, prescribing antibiotics after a week’s time is another waste of resources, Nursing Outlook reports, and it can potentially expose the patient to side effects without doing anything to improve their condition.
- Sometimes, simple patient education can go a long way. For example, value-based care may promote awareness of and adherence to medication guidelines following surgery. This can help avoid the need for follow-up procedures, infection care, and reentry into the hospital, all of which improves the patient experience and minimizes the total cost of care. Nurses are uniquely positioned to understand how patients feel and educate them on the benefits of following their care plan.
How to Promote High-Value Care
Nurses who work in leadership positions can potentially play a major role in promoting this clinical care model and in providing their fellow nurses, as well as physicians, with the infrastructure required to treat patients more efficiently. Strategies that nurse leaders might employ to foster high-value care practices include:
- Participation in nursing cohorts. Collaborating with nurse leaders from around the world is an effective way to share evidence-based practices, including guidelines for reducing antibiotic use and forgoing unnecessary testing.
- Cross-departmental collaboration. Nurse leaders can coordinate care models with providers in other departments, ensuring that consistent methodologies that promote efficiency and predictable patient outcomes are used across the organization.
- Data use. Working with the IT department, nurse leaders can seek ways to access up-to-date, evidence-based findings, as well as patient histories, to increase the odds of a quick, accurate diagnosis or a lower-cost treatment protocol. This can eliminate the need for unnecessary testing or for “trial and error” treatments.
These are just a few ways in which nurse leaders can create clinical environments that promote efficient, low-cost treatments that result in better patient outcomes.
Challenges to a High-Value Care Environment
While many administrators and physician leaders acknowledge the theoretical merits of the high-value model, actually implementing this approach can be difficult. Nurse leaders should be prepared to face a couple potential roadblocks.
Lack of Resources
Some organizations may not have the resources available to implement certain improvements — for example, widespread changes to their IT infrastructure. The role of the nurse leader is to show how an investment in high-value care can actually lead to long-term cost savings, highlighting evidence-based conclusions from clinical research.
Resistance to Change
In other organizations, the biggest problem may be a fear of change, particularly among veteran nurses or doctors who are used to doing things a certain way. Again, nurse leaders can leverage their clinical knowledge and communication skills to demonstrate how even modest adjustments can lead to a streamlined approach that better serves providers and patients alike.
Lead Others Toward Innovative Care Strategies
Nurse leaders can play a significant role in helping their organization design and adapt to a more efficient care delivery system. To achieve this goal, cultivating a wide base of both clinical skills and knowledge of health care policies and procedures is crucial. One way to do this is by enrolling in Regis College’s online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which includes coursework related to nurse leadership, evidence-based practice, health promotion, and beyond. Find out more about the program today.