Lean Healthcare Delivers Outstanding Improvements

Vative Healthcare assists clients achieve significant, sustainable financial benefits through lean healthcare, continuous improvement and innovation. Key outcomes from recent metropolitan and regional projects include:

  • 38% cut in surgical paperwork
  • After hours admissions processing cut from 37 to 13 minutes
  • After hours clerical processes cut from 6 to 2
  • 37% reduction in surgical start time delays
  • 11% improvement in patient arrival times


Innovation and Lean healthcare projects have major impact on hospitals’ bottom lines

As government pressure grows on the healthcare sector to achieve greater innovation and continuous improvement, research shows that there are still major opportunities to cut waste and inefficiency in many areas of healthcare.

Karen Barker, Director of Vative Healthcare, says a review of multiple continuous improvement projects shows there is more than 50 per cent waste in many healthcare processes.

“In the past few years we have conducted more than 30 healthcare projects in a broad range of settings including acute, residential care, rehabilitation, public and private hospitals,” Ms Barker says. “Non-value add or wasteful, inefficient processes averaged more than 50 per cent within these multiple projects. This indicates the healthcare sector needs to develop much more innovative ways to tackle these inefficiencies.

“Australia’s healthcare operators are challenged by a structure which is very large, multi-layered and fragmented. While this complexity is commonly viewed as a barrier to greater efficiency, it actually provides a very significant opportunity for innovation and for continuous improvement in a large number of hospital processes.

“By bringing together the many disparate teams involved in a single process, then identifying and eliminating waste in time and resources, processes can be dramatically improved and have a major impact on the bottom line. This how Lean healthcare can help”

Increasing the healthcare system’s financial sustainability and productivity, and implementing continuous improvement and innovation, are two of the seven priority areas in the Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012-2022.

The government is seeking continuous improvement in areas including:

  • Options to drive innovation
  • Patient flow through the system
  • Hospital service quality and safety
  • Clinical and hospital administration and best practice.

“Sustainable benefits can be achieved in all these areas when internal capabilities and expertise are built through training in continuous improvement methodology,” Ms Barker says.

Vative advises a wide range of healthcare clients including St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (St George’s Health Service), Peninsula Health, The Valley Private and Healthscope.

 

Lean healthcare delivers 38% reduction in surgical paperwork

This regional health service project involved reviewing the flow of 16 pieces of surgical documentation from the time a patient is referred to hospital through to ward admission. The project team brought in personnel from departments including pre-admission, theatre (including surgeons and anaesthetists), recovery nurses and ward nurses, and also interviewed GPs who referred patients.

The documentation flow was mapped from end to end and benchmarked with other regional hospitals. Priorities were set for legal, coding and patient safety, and all stakeholders surveyed about their use of information before forms were merged into a user friendly format which cut duplication of fields and information.

The external referral process was reviewed, and multiple delivery modes for referrals (mail, email, fax and personal delivery) were reduced to one standardised email form.

“We reduced, eliminated or simplified the paperwork so it was more user friendly for staff and patients, and achieved a 38 per cent reduction in the number of forms from 16 to 10,” Ms Barker says.

Other financial outcomes include:

  • A reduction in paper costs delivering an annual saving of around $10,000
  • A reduction in staff time and costs in form filling from 130 minutes to 80 minutes per patient, with an annual saving of around $89,000.

Eighteen staff from the regional health service completed Vative Healthcare’s 10-month accredited Lean healthcare program.

 

Admissions processing cut from 37 minutes to 13 minutes

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (St George’s Health Service) tackled a number of projects with Vative Healthcare, including morning to afternoon clinical handover, patient engagement, falls prevention and after-hours admission. Fifteen staff participated in a 10-month Lean improvement program, with all achieving Lean certificates or diplomas following competency-based training. Project outcomes included:

  • Reducing after hours admissions processing from 37 minutes to 13 minutes
  • Reducing standardised after hours clerical processes from six to two.
  • Reducing labour costs and enabling staff to be reallocated to higher value tasks.

Mary-Anne Welch, General Manager Aged & Community Care, Director of Nursing St. George’s Health Service, says a cultural morale survey showed improvements in company and team communication, involvement, empowerment, rewards recognition, satisfaction and OH&S.

“The effect on morale and culture of the team has been really positive. We are still achieving the positive outcomes as a result of the project with Vative Healthcare,” she says.

Vative achieves significant business improvements for clients through solutions which are simple, realistic and highly effective. Providing consultancy and training services, Vative’s 45-strong team includes Lean and Six Sigma excellence coaches with extensive health, business management, academic, engineering and trade backgrounds.

Lean healthcare training ensures staff understand continuous improvement methodology, enabling change to be driven from the bottom up as well as top down. Frontline staff are given problem solving tools, and with leadership support they can achieve significant, sustainable gains in areas including clinical, non-clinical, environment and national standards in safety and quality.