Saving lives: it’s what hospitals do best. However, healthcare is also a business. So, any opportunity to reduce costs, while maintaining excellent patient care, is a win-win. Sure, all medical staff are committed to providing the best care for their patients. Yet, where are the opportunities to provide even greater patient care and save more lives? Process improvement strategies are an effective and proven approach in the healthcare arena.
Two key areas to effective patient care are patient pain management and processing time of patient test results from internal support groups, such as the chemistry lab.
Pain management is a critical component of patient care within hospitals. Healthcare professionals manage patients’ pain through physical therapy, psychiatric therapy and/or conventional pain medication.
The processing time of patients’ test results, specifically reducing the time to administer such things as X-Rays, MRI’s bloodwork, and the accompanying paperwork, have a significant impact on patient care and the ability for medical staff to make decisions impacting their patients’ care.
In the effort to save lives and affect patient care, hospitals should apply a methodological approach to streamline internal processes. In addition, applying these strategies will reduce costs and impact hospitals’ bottomline.
Process Improvements in a Hospital Saves Money & Lives
The following highlights are from a successful Process Improvement initiative in the Chemistry Laboratory at a major triage hospital in New York. The effort led to a reduction in processing time, a $1.2 million ROI and a significant impact on patient care. Designed and led by Kelvin H. G. Bhattan and Khris K. Bhattan, the results served as a major hospital milestone and served as an efficiency process to emulate at other hospitals in the metro area.
Move Fast and Be Accurate
Often, moving fast and decreasing processing time is the main goal of any Process Improvement initiative. But this case was different: it impacted life and death. In the healthcare industry, specifically, it is critical to not only be fast, but be accurate. Processing time was the metric used to justify the cost, but the accuracy metric had direct impact on patient care. The ability to produce fast and accurate results was paramount and the guiding objectives for this project.
Process Improvement Approach
After vetting equipment manufacturers, the team determined how much processing time could be saved with the new state-of-art equipment. In addition, the team conducted a complete analysis and process overhaul of the workflow of patient specimens into, and out of, the laboratory. The team scrutinized how fast the specimen processing needed to be to positively impact patient care.
In addition to reducing cycle times, other processes that brought specimens in and out of the Chemistry lab were streamlined. As a result of an increase in traffic couriers delivering blood samples, specimens reached the lab quicker, and results delivered back to medical staff, in less time. In addition, the cycle time of incoming lab requests was reduced from 1.5 hours to 45 minutes. The reduction in processing time allowed medical technologists more time to perform necessary laboratory maintenance procedures. This process equated to less equipment down time and higher Operating Efficiency (OE).
Results of process improvement project
The overall reduction of processing time, per specimen, was reduced from 9 minutes to 5 minutes. This effort equated to a cost savings of $1.2 million over the lifespan of the equipment.
In addition to the cost savings, the accuracy of specimen results rose to 99.96% while processing over 1600+ specimens per hour in a combination of General Chemistry & Immunoassays. The results were groundbreaking and became a best practice for other Chemistry Laboratories in the New York area.
Process Improvements Impact Patient Care
The results achieved in this initiative had direct impact on patient care. The reduction in the overall cycle/processing time of specimens resulted in blood work data delivered sooner to doctors. This enabled doctors and staff to respond quicker and make timely medical decisions for their patients. Reducing cycle times of blood specimens has the potential to save lives.
This initiative is a great example of how supporting functions in a hospital can have significant impact on patient care as well contribute to reducing costs in a hospital. Improving process efficiencies is applicable in the healthcare environment as it is in a myriad of other industries. In this scenario, the process improvements also had the opportunity to save lives.
If you are interested in how to improve business processes in your organization that will directly impact your bottomline, contact us today!