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By: Brian Lipp, Optimization Consultant, Brightree Professional Services

It usually starts like this: you have a problem with your business, but you can’t necessarily put a finger on the pulse of what it is or even begin to quantify it or really know the next step to take to fix the problem. After all, you’re an HME or pharmacy provider, not a process improvement expert.

To move the needle for your business, you need to first understand what’s happening in order to make the necessary corrections that will make your processes better and more efficient with less waste and fewer defects. And one of the best ways to do that is to engage a consultant to methodically uncover what’s happening at your organization, evaluate what to do about it and put in place the actions that will make you successful.

In fact, a Forbes Insight Study showed that 92% of executives report success with consulting projects. With that in mind, the question you may want to ask yourself is: can we afford not to engage in consulting services?

Whether you’re trying to achieve financially based goals or ones focused on efficiency, consulting services can scale your engagement based on what’s needed for the size and complexity of your organization through everything from a gap analysis and one-week engagement to a full-blown process improvement initiative. If you’re considering making a move to bring on a consultant, make sure you look for these 6 factors.

Find a facilitator. A good consultant won’t come in with preconceived notions of what the answers are for your business but instead will be very neutral. When I start an engagement, I always let the group know that I’m Switzerland in the room, acting as a facilitator to understand what the current state is so we can get to a future state of success. And the only way to do that is peeling back the layers to what’s really happening at your organization. It should all start with your consultant guiding you in determining what’s ailing you and what’s it doing to your business.

Talk to front-line employees. During initial discovery to identify the pain points, it’s important to make sure we have the right people in the room to provide the necessary details to your processes. There’s always a large variance between what the management and executive teams think is happening and what’s truly happening on the ground. By talking to the front-line employees who are deep in the processes, we can learn what they do and how they do it step by step.

Dig for data. Whether you have a financial, clinical or regulatory process constraint, it’s important to quantify it with data. Your consultant should use that data to form a baseline of where you started and develop KPIs to measure the success of the engagement in achieving your goals and taking your business to the next level.

Open the toolbox. You’ll want a consultant who is skilled in Lean and Six Sigma methodologies. Both have their own sets of tools and different tools are used depending on the problem you’re trying to solve. For example, Six Sigma is focused on eliminating defects in your process while Lean is around finding the waste and eliminating it through efficiency. And to me, Lean is especially relevant to healthcare, for example, looking at eight wastes in a process – things like overproduction, excess inventory, waiting and non-utilized talent.

Keep the customer top of mind. Everything you do should be rooted in what the customer wants, needs and requires. Think about trying to make toast for someone and not asking questions like: How many pieces do you want? Would you like white, wheat or raisin? Do you want butter or plain? If you don’t ask those questions and understand those requirements, you can’t be successful in the process of making toast for someone. The same goes for your customers, and a good consultant will always make sure you incorporate the voice of the customer in your processes.

Avoid the Bobs. The premise of the movie, Office Space, was that two business consultants named Bob were brought in to help the company downsize. But good consulting and process improvement isn’t about reducing your workforce at all. It’s about making sure your employees are doing things that are value added to the process. If you’re overstaffed in a certain area, for instance, we help you utilize your talent to provide value in another area of the process. The ability to shift employees to another position is especially important with today’s labor shortages, so that your business is always covered. Consulting helps you document the process, so you can quickly train someone on the fly to fill a vacated slot.

Consulting services can help you understand what your current landscape looks like — including identifying your pain points and mapping out your processes — and then ultimately making best practice recommendations that are specific to your HME or pharmacy business. Follow these 6 factors to make sure you’re on the right track to success

Brian Lipp

Brian Lipp,
Optimization Consultant, Brightree Professional Services

Brian Lipp currently serves as an optimization consultant with our continuous improvement team, focusing on internal and customer-facing improvement projects. Brian is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with over 20 years of experience in acute and post-acute environments. Brian is passionate about continuous improvement and using a data-driven approach to select, facilitate and demonstrate results on improvement projects in multiple verticals.