Financial staging for improvements

Maximize your investment by prioritizing

Annual plans to address patient education needs are created for 43 clinical areas at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, following an assessment by one of 13 educators. The primary role of the educator is to assess the need, write the plans, and then make sure the plans are implemented.

This method of oversight is extremely effective and meets educational needs in a systematic way to allocate resources accordingly, says Becky Smith, RN, MA, manager, Section of Patient Education. "We can't do everything, but we prioritize, put it in writing, and seek leadership input and approval" Smith says.

The operational budget for patient education comes from an administrative pool of funds, which is financed by clinical areas that pay for indirect services. Part of the Section of Patient Education's budget goes to Media Support Services for layout and design. This accounting method, with charges being made among departments for internal services, assists with prioritizing resources and accounting for expenses.

The educational innovations included in clinical area plans are developed with funds allocated to patient education. Usually the Section of Patient Education's role is to develop and provide oversight of educational content. For example, the video on-demand system, which was an institutional initiative, was covered by institutional funds. The Section of Patient Education provides oversight of the content for this system.

In the early stages of innovation development, patient education shoulders the pilot costs. For example, when a new technology is being tested in a clinical area, the Section of Patient Education will pay for licenses and equipment during the pilot phase. Once the technology is fully operational and applied institution-wide, it becomes part of Mayo Clinic's budget.

Patient education collaborates with colleagues in information technology and other areas to carefully assess a new delivery method. For example, use of mobile phone apps to educate patients is in the early discussion stage. We will have to do considerable groundwork to determine the right content, right time, right place, and situation in which to use mobile phones to educate patients," says Smith. "This takes time and resources. Once we've determined that an idea should be pursued, the department will write an objective and pilot, and evaluate use of mobile phones before going forward."

Annual educational improvement plans for Mayo's clinical areas usually address gaps in patient education practice and new opportunities to apply emerging technologies, ideas, and delivery systems. Innovations might take many forms, including a material revision or the purchase of a new educational material, the development of a video or classroom curriculum, or something more costly such as providing a computer workstation in a waiting area.

"Whatever the innovation delivery method, the goal is to have the right educational content for a patient at the right time," says Smith. "A key step before financial staging is planning and assessing for educational need. With sound planning, you've got the underpinnings for a sound financial plan."