Abington Memorial Hospital is a 570-bed not-for-profit regional teaching hospital in Abington, Pennsylvania. As part of an ongoing effort to enhance performance across the organization, the Performance Outcomes Department was established in the fall of 2006. The department will be providing new services to existing hospital departments and programs, such as process redesign, improvement leadership and advanced data support. Performance Outcomes will support managers, physicians and staff with ideas and tools to help them make successful sustainable improvement.

In concert with GE Performance Solutions partners, the hospital has adopted the Lean methodology for healthcare model that includes a kaizen philosophy. Staff are working to improve processes that are related to critical success factors, including the hospital’s pillars – patient satisfaction, patient safety, employee satisfaction, diversity and financial/growth.

What Is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese word for continuous improvement. A literal translation of Kaizen is “to become good through change.” In business management, Kaizen is used internationally and modified by each culture to best suit their unique business environments. At its most basic level, the concept of Kaizen is one of restructuring and organizing every aspect of a system to ensure it operates at peak efficiency. It involves the elimination of waste, inventory reduction, productive maintenance of instruments and equipment to minimize breakdowns, and policy deployment so that all staff understand the basic strategic plan.

Introduction to Lean

After working with senior management to prioritize initial areas needing improvement, a project was chosen to try this Lean methodology. After an “introduction to Lean principles” discussion, these hospital leaders experienced a paradigm shift. Although they had predetermined the cause of the problems to be with intravenous pump availability, the introduction to Lean methodology caused them to think about the situation differently.

As a result, the hospital took an entirely different approach than originally proposed, which yielded significant savings. It was determined that equipment distribution in the hospital was an area of great concern from a patient safety and employee satisfaction perspective. This gave the hospital an opportunity to experience Lean in a real environment.

The Kaizen Event

The Kaizen team was assembled of management and non-management employees. They met to determine a plan for reaching the goal of improving the availability of infusion pumps and modules on two hospital units.

Clinical staff and technicians were dealing with the frustration of not being able to locate pumps. The staff was spending less than optimal time on patient care and too much time tracking down equipment. Once they found the equipment, it was often broken or dirty, which started the search process again and wasted even more time. Not only was there a significant loss of time with patients, but also an unfortunate friction between nurses and staff members who were trying to find the equipment.

The Kaizen team investigated these concerns, affirmed the goal of improving the availability of the pumps and modules on these units, and developed a standard process for distribution.

A documented procedure was developed, including a plan for storing the pumps, a process for pump acquisition and standard process for cleaning the pumps. The pilot began in early December and ran for four weeks. It is now in the process of being rolled out to other units.

The result is that the units where the Kaizen took place now have a successful process for acquiring and maintaining infusion pumps. There is a designated space for the equipment, the hospital will save money on inventory and there is a standardized cleaning process. Most importantly, patients receive their pump-supplied medications in a more timely fashion, and hospital employees are much more satisfied.

“The Lean model addresses all of our hospital pillars. It can particularly provide employee satisfaction by addressing areas of concern,” says Jackie Moore, administrative director, Performance Outcomes. “I am happy to be leading this new initiative for our hospital. There is an abundance of opportunity in healthcare to utilize this methodology. The project team has worked hard and they continue to work to ensure the process is stable so that it can be maintained and woven into the fabric of everyday work at the hospital.”

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