2.16.2007

Visual Controls in a Hospital

Nursing_floor_view.jpg


Most people are aware of the burgeoning movement to apply lean principles to healthcare. A company called Awarix has come up with an intriguing use of technology in support of that effort.


Awarix has created what it calls patient care visibility systems. Simply put, it is a use of technology to create visual controls in a hospital, through an electronic whiteboard – in effect, a kind of andon board.


The picture shown here is an example of what one of these boards looks like. The diagram is a layout of patient rooms on a hospital floor, with color coding to distinguish different situations. Green might signify an inpatient, turquoise an observation patient, yellow a patient scheduled for discharge. Letters can signify patient alerts; for example, the “R” on the room on the left could indicate results of tests – or if it were a different color, abnormal results or critical results.


Information is communicated through location technology, such as ultrasound and radio frequency identification (RFID). The whiteboards are placed throughout the hospital, and the system can provide status information on more than 75 clinical and administrative processes.


Customers of Awarix include Ascension Health in St. Louis, Catholic Healthcare West in San Francisco, Tenet Healthcare in Dallas and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.


According to Awarix, the system at St. Vincent’s – part of a broader capacity management improvement program – helps turn over medical-surgical beds more efficiently, which means patients don’t have to be held in the emergency department while they wait for beds. Neeysa Biddle, president of St. Vincent’s, said this resulted in a significant decrease in hospital-wide diversion hours.


An Awarix system is also used at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Alabama. Fran Gappa, a nursing supervisor there, said, “We can just look at the board and know that the patient is a myocardial infection patient. So, we know that certain tasks need to be carried out to make sure that the patient is receiving the highest quality care. It makes it much easier for us to intuitively know what needs to be done.”


That, of course, is what visual controls are all about.


The system seems like a good idea, and a clever strategy by Awarix to seize a market opportunity. I hope we see more approaches like it.

6 comments:

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
2/19/2007 1:48:11 PM
Re: Visual Controls in a Hospital
By: qa.manager

Here in the UK the NHS needs to look beyond setting targets and budgets in attempt to improve performance. Two recipes for fixing the NHS have been on offer in the media recently. Sir Gerry Robinson's attempt to galvanise Rotherham General Hospital was rather like a reality TV show, and his idea that one brilliant manager can get the service into shape is dangerous and deluded. Far more encouraging was Peter Day's In Business programme on Radio 4, which asked the seemingly unlikely question of whether Toyota's production principles could be applied to healthcare. Rather than seeking efficiency by speeding up individual activities, adopting the Toyota approach ensures that the focus is on improving the flow throughout the whole system, concentrating rigorously on customer demand. This system flies in the face of the current policy of fragmenting the NHS and hiving out activities to private companies. But it demonstrates that large size is no barrier to efficiency. This leaflet elaborates further: http://www.leanuk.org/articles/lean_thinking_for_the_nhs_leaflet.pdf

Rob
www.rob-thompson.net
www.63buckets.co.uk (lean)
www.qualityhero.co.uk (six sigma)

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
2/19/2007 1:48:23 PM
Re: Visual Controls in a Hospital
By: mgraban

Good visual, but could the same thing be accomplished more cheaply with a whiteboard showing similar information? This might be an overreliance on technology that is sometimes glitchy (such as RFID).

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