But take a look anyway, if you have an interest in process improvement in hospitals. This is a collection of my best posts on this topic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Surprising use of Lean

A note from one of our rehabilitation staff, who had gone through an exercise in learning and applying Lean principles in the occupational therapy clinic:

The Lean organizational concepts have been helpful for me with patient care and in one case recently in particular!

Recently I treated a young patient with early Alzheimer's who needs to organize home etc. to help him with memory impairments. It was very helpful to show him some of the ways we have organized our department to improve our efficiency, particularly with the labeling. I feel that those same concepts will be helpful for him to organize in his home environment as it needs to be extremely organized to help him with memory impairments.

I don't know if people elsewhere have used this approach in a therapeutic way and put this story out there to see if so and to welcome comments if you have. (Mark Graban or others, do you have examples of this from your extensive experience?)

Lean is not about dieting

Following yesterday's story, here's another example of the Lean methodology in action, as presented in an email from one of our nurses to her colleagues this week. Note the involvement from others in the hospital that have had experience on their own floors. Wait, are they having fun, too!? I have heard too many reports of that. Quick, call out the seriousness brigade and put a stop to it.

From: Serrano,Marjorie I. (BIDMC - Nursing)
To: Nursing Farr 6 All

Lean Update on Farr 6 Clean Supply Room

As you could see, there was a lot of activity in the clean supply room today. The Lean team from the President’s office, Distribution plus 11R’s Marnie Pettit, RN and Martha Clinton, PCT, and Farr 7’s Beth Morrison, and Catherine McCollin worked with the Farr 6 team to redesign the clean supply room for better flow. We will be back tomorrow to continue this work.

We received training on key Lean principles which taught us that spending time searching and fetching items means less time spent on real work – time with our patients. Even when we can easily find an item, does it make sense for us to put items out of reach, i.e. too high or too low? Why not imitate the supermarkets that place frequently used items at eye level, like bread!

Lean calls these non-value added steps, “waste”. We spent the day removing as much waste out of the clean supply room process as possible. Last week, we counted the par stock right after it was fully stocked, then counted again the day after before it was restocked. This gave us the number used for one day and was used to determine the amount needed on your supply room carts (called the par number). We realized we had more stock than we needed in some cases and not enough in other cases based on this count so we removed all excess stock as well as added additional stock where needed.

Once we regained additional space, we organized the stock logically by function and for flow. For example, you will see we now will have zones for Housekeeping, ADL, GU/GI, Wound Care, Procedures and Respiratory. We then placed the most frequently used items at eye level to reduce bending and reaching. Most items are now in bins and the bin sizes indicate the amount of stock needed. The bins will have 3 labels: the “common name label” on the front of the bin – what most of you call the item, the “picture of the item label” on the bottom of the bin to tell you when that bin is empty what belongs there, and finally the “reorder label” also on the bottom of the bin that tells you the item number, cost & the ordering amount so when you are out of an item, you have the information needed when calling distribution.

Some examples of changes:

Items moved to the kitchen: Pitchers, liners, straws, cups
Items moved from Med Room to Clean supply room: Stat Lock for Piccs
Some skincare items were removed at the suggestion of the wound care specialist. These items will be reevaluated at the wound care task force tomorrow. (Keri Oil, Keri Lotion, Duoderm, Sheepskin, A+D Ointment, Antibiotic Ointment
Items that were added include: Duoderm Gel, Barrier Wipes, 5x5 Allevyn Foam, Non sterile suction tubing, Wound Cleanser, 9” armboards
Cable ties were moved to the resource drawer with the gun
Flashlights are now stored on equipment shelf in RN station.
Sustaining the gains

Lean taught us that this is a continuous improvement process so please give us your feedback and we will continue to improve. All of us own this process and keeping the Clean Supply room neat and tidy depends on all of us.

Thanks to Marnie, Pam, Bettyna, Marie, Singh, Beth, Catherine, Marnie, Martha, Bill, Jenine, Sam, Brandan


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bullish on the Container Store

Quick, buy stock in the Container Store. As we continue with our expanded use of Lean process improvement techniques at BIDMC -- often originating from a BIDMC SPIRIT call-out -- a big part of each project seems to be reorganizing stuff. Here's an example from a recent exercise in our food service area.

The "before" picture shows you what things were like for the folks who organize and retrieve kitchen and serving supplies. Notice the mish-mosh of boxes, and look to see how hard it is for the staff member to reach the high shelf. Also, consider how dangerous it is for her to do so, with the chance of boxes falling on her head. The supplies themselves are kept in the original packing boxes, requiring someone to open a box each time something is needed. Only after opening the box, too, can they see if the inventory is running low.

The "after" picture shows you the change. Notice that the top shelf is now off-limits. Meanwhile, supplies have been organized in see-through containers, each with a clear label showing what is packed therein. The bins are easily pulled to permit removal of the supplies. And, because the original delivery boxes have been emptied, inventories are clear on a continuous basis.

As we say in the hospital world, this is not brain surgery, but it does require a thoughtful view of the work situation. That view, by the way, is constructed by the people who work in this area, not by some high ranking administrator. They get guidance from our Lean project team in the basic principles, but they are the ones who own the solution.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Next stage of transparency

Several months ago, we announced some audacious goals for BIDMC that were established by our Board, including elimination of preventable harm by 2012. We also promised that we would publish our progress towards that goal. We have now set this up on our website here. You can watch to see our data each quarter in each of the several categories listed.

When we were getting ready to publish these numbers, some of our trustees asked if we could put the numbers in terms of the percentage of cases in which there was preventable harm. By that measure, the number would be very, very small, about 40 cases out of over 200,000 in a calendar quarter, about 2/100's of a percent.

We said, "No, the point is to emphasize that each of the case involved an actual human being." Describing them as a percentage would dehumanize the physical impact on a real person, someone's mother, father, sister, or brother.

Last week, I was invited to give a lecture on this topic at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a different question was posed by a doctor in the class. "How can you set a target of zero," he asked, "when we know that zero is impossible?" I replied, "Putting aside the question of whether zero is impossible, the most motivational target is zero. If you say that we are trying to reduce, say, infections by 20 percent per year, people will feel satisfied if they meet that target. The idea is to establish creative tension for the organization by adopting an audacious goal. And, by the way, in certain areas, other hospitals have shown that zero is attainable for extended periods of time for certain types of error-avoidance."

At the other end of the spectrum, we are taking criticism from some people who see an inconsistency between these efforts at transparency and our lack of discussion or disclosure about particular cases. But we need to do that for reasons of patient privacy or for other legal reasons. For example, when a malpractice case is filed, we cannot and will not discuss that case publicly. For one thing, any comment we make can be construed as a violation of the patient's privacy. For another, as any lawyer will tell you, it is simply bad policy to discuss issues of this kind of litigation in a public forum. The plaintiff's attorney faces no such constraints, of course, and might perceive some benefit in holding a press conference to discuss the case. While we understand a reporter's desire to write a balanced story, our reply usually has to be, "No comment."

But outside of a particular lawsuit story, what are we going to say and disclose about all these cases of harm that are summarized on our website? The answer is that it depends. You can see from the chart that there are currently over 100 cases of preventable harm per year spread over several categories. As we have recently, when we think a specific case warrants wide public disclosure to help our staff be alert to a major challenge or teaching opportunity, we will give it wide circulation. Other specific cases will be given more limited distribution among our staff, consistent with their value in teaching about the need and means for quality improvement in a given sector of our hospital. And, in other situations, a pattern of several cases of a certain type might be presented to particular segments of our staff as a warning of a problem area.

We understand that our inclination towards transparency will garner criticism from some who think we are not being transparent enough when they have an issue or curiosity about a particular case. That is a by-product of what we have chosen to do, and we accept that.

Another by-product is that publication of these numbers may give the impression that we harm patients more than other hospitals. After all, we publish our numbers, and they do not. And many cases we publicize to our staff will inevitably be considered newsworthy by the local media. This, in fact, is why doctors and hospitals often don't like to talk about this stuff. Fundamentally, they don't want to be judged by the general public and the media, whom they deem to be unqualified observers of the medical scene.

Anyway, I want to assure you that there is no indication whatsoever that we harm patients more than other hospitals. (In fact, we know that our figures for certain types of hospital acquired infections are well below average.) But please remember that every study or analysis ever done indicates that hospitals rank highly among the country's public health hazards. Don't think that you are more safe in a place just because they don't talk about their errors. We believe that the only way to improve in this arena is to be open and honest about your mistakes and thereby enable people to learn from them.