10.10.2007

Improving Patient Flow is Now a Trend

Along with other lean blogs and healthcare blogs, I’ve been posting a variety of items about how growing numbers of hospitals are applying lean principles to their operations. It’s nice to see this trend confirmed by an article in mainstream media.


A recent article by the Kansas City Star describes recent developments at hospitals in that region. One is Olathe Medical Center. The article, by Robert Cole, notes:


 


Olathe, and nearly every other major Kansas City hospital, continues to spend large sums to add new diagnostic clinics, critical-care equipment and services that include trauma and high-risk maternity.


But patient flow, from the parking garage to preadmission testing areas to oncology suites, is becoming a key aspect to expedite health-care delivery.


An Olathe spokesman, Mike Jenkins, is quoted as saying that


…patients are immediately triaged by a nurse when they arrive at Olathe’s emergency room. They’re taken to ER suites, and registration is completed at the bedside using wireless handheld computers.


“They’re not sitting and filling out paperwork,” Jenkins said. “Families feel much better knowing that the patient is already being treated.”


St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City is also mentioned.


 


St. Joseph recently completed a remodeling of its ER waiting room and registration area. The medical center tries to locate high-volume outpatient services convenient to front entrances, an increasing health-care trend.


 


In fact, St. Joseph is making a promise:


In June, St. Joseph began marketing 30-minute guaranteed emergency room service.


If a patient doesn’t see a doctor within 30 minutes of their check-in, they receive two free movie passes. But extreme emergencies take precedent, said Gordon Docking, CEO.


“If someone comes in with chest pain or stroke symptoms, they go right to the head of the line,” he said.


Personally, I find that to be a strange incentive. What do movie passes have to do with healthcare? If I’m so sick I find it necessary to travel to an emergency room, and I end up having to wait a long time to be treated, a couple of movie passes aren’t going to make me feel better, emotionally or physically. However, I’ll at least give St. Joseph credit for putting itself on the line (albeit in a strange way) by publicly promoting its commitment to better service.


 


But my main point is not about what Olathe or St. Joseph is doing. It is that what they are doing appears to be part of a trend.


 


Another example is a recent news release from Signature Hospital Corp., which owns and operates four hospitals in Texas, Arkansas and West Virginia. The company announced a quality and safety initiative, one focus of which is the application of lean principles. (Another focus is the implementation of a new computer system designed to link financial and clinical databases across the organization.)


 


I hope and believe the trend is real. Lives will be saved as a result, and some pain will be eliminated from the hospital experience.


 


What examples of the trend have you seen? Tell us by posting comments below.

4 comments:

Ralph Bernstein said...

10/10/2007 2:44:45 PM
Re: Improving Patient Flow is Now a Trend
By dcbliss

In Iowa, we recently held our 2nd annual Lean Healthcare conference, which was attended by people from 47 communities in Iowa. Several hospitals have either hired a process improvement expert (Lean or Six Sigma or both) or have contracted with a consulting firm. It is a growing trend, as financial, service, and other pressures including overcrowding put the squeeze on our limited resources. Expect to see more examples - in fact, there are many articles on the lean.org website that specifically address Lean in helathcare. There are also speakers at the upcoming AME conference that will address Lean in healthcare.

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