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CFOs: Collaborate with the Competition to Save Millions

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, December 5, 2011

Beyond the savings, Caldwell measured several performance improvements:

  • 70% increase in the proportion of pre-registered imaging patients
  • 50% improvement for inpatient bed preparation time
  • 40% reduction in time for operating room preparation
  • 35% reduction in laboratory turnaround time in the emergency department
  • 40% improvement in radiology process time in the ED
  • 50% improvement in time to initial treatment in the ED

One year after the Western North Carolina Lean Collaborative program launched, six more hospitals came together to launch the Eastern North Carolina Lean Collaborative program, comprising Samson Regional Hospital in Clinton, Columbus Regional Healthcare System in Whiteville, Bladen County Hospital in Elizabethtown, Duplin General Hospital in Kenansville, Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport, and Johnston County Health in Smithfield.

As Lean gains ground at these hospitals, the next wave is to push Lean deeper into the healthcare community. "My next vision is to take this out into the whole supply chain for healthcare. So, if you're a patient, your primary care or home health is operating Lean," he says.

To that end, Spade who also serves on the board of the North Carolina Department of Public Health, has guided the implementation of the Lean methodology at all 85 of the state's departments of public health. Others in the program have also begun spreading Lean concepts, too. For instance, Caldwell Memorial has started working with area safety net organizations, such as free clinics and primary care practices, to teach them how to apply Lean principles.

"We want this to spread into the whole healthcare value stream," Spade says. "The ultimate goal is to use Lean throughout the community to improve care. You have to get the Lean principles out to the physicians, to the organization managers, to the community health centers to really make the change complete. You have to get all the stakeholders to come together so we can design a better overall health system, not just a leaner hospital."

Spade's Lean gospel is expanding beyond North Carolina, too; hospitals from Nebraska and Oregon are now using his model to help their hospitals become more efficient. For healthcare financial leaders looking to take their organization Lean but uncertain how to fund the effort, learn from Spade's collaboration: Work with other healthcare organization—even your competitors—to create a Lean learning collaborative. You have nothing to lose but process inefficiency and waste.


Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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