Dr Mahmood Adil asks how clinicians and finance managers can engage and work together more effectively.
Clinicians and finance managers usually hear different music and dance to different tunes – patient outcomes vs. bottom line, disease management vs. episode costs.
An average financial analyst might have to Google ‘decubitus ulcer’ (bed sore!) to participate in discussions about reducing harm rates in hospitals. By the same token, the typical clinician may glaze over at the mention of productivity measures and costing.
However, if we can help these two dedicated group of professionals to share their knowledge in driving common outcome i.e. improving quality and efficiency by working together, it could be the start of a valuable partnership. A mutual respect for evidence (how data guide decision making) is one of the common grounds between finance and clinicians.
Not all quality improvement initiatives lead to decreased cost but by working collaboratively they would be able to identify many opportunities that do get missed at times because of lack of appropriate expertise sitting round the table.
Finance directors cannot design pathways but they can help frontline clinicians to play that lead role by informing them of the financial implications of the changes they intend to make to improve quality of health services. QIPP drive does expect clinician to take account of the financial implications of their clinical quality improvement decisions, which means they have to engage proactively with their finance colleagues at all levels in an NHS organisation.
All clinicians should understand the basics of NHS finance, the role that finance plays in their work and how they commit resources. This is not about turning doctors into accountants; it is about enabling doctors properly to make the best use of NHS resources for patients. On the flipside, we need to encourage finance professionals to learn the business of clinical care delivery—from a reasonable point of view. Of course, they do not need to prepare to do surgery but they need to learn the processes of care, the standards of care and how care is delivered and by who, in order to provide the best and most relevant information to their clinical colleagues.
In the past, financial management was often seen as the preserve of the finance department and quality improvement usually fell within the domain of clinicians – but this approach will not stand up to modern-day demands and expectations. Finance managers and clinicians can do a quick litmus test by asking: Are they part of a team working directly in dealing with any quality improvement initiative in their trusts? What mutual benefit have they achieved by doing so?
If so, then I would be keen to hear your views on examples of current engagement, whether you are a clinician or a finance manager – because your intellectual interdependency will improve NHS quality and efficiency at the same time.
In future blogs I will explore what the barriers are to developing effective collaborations and ways to overcome them. Send me your innovative and practical ideas as to how we can take this to the next level.