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Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma and Hospital Improvement – Pt 2

Using Lean to Discover the Real Problem

Sometimes the answer isn’t what you think. Abington Memorial Hospital is located in Abington, Pennsylvania.

This 570-bed not-for-profit teaching hospital used Lean principles to improve patient safety and employee satisfaction around an intravenous pump availability problem.

Hospital leaders had predetermined a cause for pump availability, but Lean principles determined that an entirely different approach was needed. Management and staff met to plan for improving pump and module availability.

Staff shared their frustration of not being able to find pumps, which cut patient care time. Once located, equipment was often broken or dirty, leading to a new search and more wasted time.

The Lean team restated the goal of improving availability and developed a standard, documented procedure for distribution, storage and cleaning the pumps. A designated space for equipment saved the hospital money on inventory by reducing waste.

Standardizing the cleaning process meant more units were available, so patients received medications more quickly. Better methods created less avoidable stress which led to higher employee satisfaction.

Lean Means No Expansion Needed

Sometimes the answer is simple. Another great example of Lean in action is Delnor Hospital, in Geneva, Illinois. The number of women choosing the hospital for their maternity services grew to a point where management nearly embarked on an $80 million expansion.

Lean principles revealed that overcrowding was caused by unusually long waits after patients were discharged. The problem was easily resolved by adding a discharge nurse, which cut 10 hours off the average stay and eliminated the need for expansion.

Implementing Six Sigma to Fulfill the Strategic Plan

Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia implemented Six Sigma in an effort to improve performance throughout the organization.

After facilitating hospital staff’s Six Sigma training and including Six Sigma principles in the annual strategic plan, the hospital is seeing tangible progress.

Employees who completed Six Sigma training said they felt as if they had received a master’s level education.

A major improvement was a new approach to issues: instead of making assumptions about a problem, Six Sigma healthcare teams used their new knowledge and skills to gather and analyze real data and create sustainable solutions.

Work-Out sessions allowed staff to use common tools to create more focused and productive meetings, and employees feel more empowered to make decisions and manage change.

Areas identified for improvement included human resources, efficiency and growth, emergency department performance, and patient satisfaction.

Tangible results from employing Six Sigma and Work-Out principles include:

  • Reducing turnaround time in operating rooms by 14 minutes, enabling 80 more cases per month
  • Reducing MRI time by 13 minutes, increasing capacity by 22 cases per month
  • Reducing patient cycle time in the ER by 15 minutes, increasing emergency room capacity by 254 cases per month.

These results have increased enthusiasm for Lean Six Sigma in healthcare, spurred ideas for new projects and inspired improved performance throughout Doctors Hospital.

Lean Six Sigma and Kaizen Lead to Real, Sustainable Hospital Improvements

These are just a few examples of how hospitals across the country are embracing Lean Six Sigma and Kaizen principles to improve their processes, reduce waste, improve patient care, and make the workday easier on hard-working staff.

Using data to identify the real problem, along with a focus on continuous improvement, can help healthcare providers move through the challenges of healthcare reform, increased demand and shrinking budgets with great success.

Back to Part 1