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Systemwide Process Improvement

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, April 14, 2011
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“Capital is very restricted now and everyone is looking to build a tower, but each bed costs about a million dollars. By improving flow we were able to create this additional capacity and bring in more patients without spending a single dollar,” explains Andrabi. “At the same time we were able to reduce our readmission rate and improve our quality by 50%. By deploying this we were able to have a positive impact on our care and reduce our costs during some very difficult economic times.”

Getting to this stage required Mercy St. Vincent to leave the path it was on and transform its culture. The journey started out the way most providers do, with Lean to target key areas. But, Sober says, one thing that could’ve been done differently would be to have better engaged senior leadership at the outset of the process.

“Working from the bottom up isn’t bad, but I would’ve liked to have shifted some of my time to the top and worked down,” he says. “This is something that happens to a whole system and not just to a silo.”

Andrabi notes that “as a doctor you learn to look at things in a more holistic way, and from a leadership perspective we had to decide if we were looking for a short-term answer or a long-term approach with sustainable solutions.”

Though Lean, Six Sigma, VMPS, and THE all vary, they do all encourage providers to look at processes to find inefficiencies. As healthcare moves into a new era where quality takes center stage and reimbursements are expected to decline, systems that adopt process improvement initiatives systemwide will see greater returns in profit, quality, and patient satisfaction, as Virginia Mason and Mercy St. Vincent have already.


Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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1 comments on "Systemwide Process Improvement"


james mcniff (4/15/2011 at 8:56 AM)
This same opportunity exists in non-clinical applications like the revenue cycle..Per AHA, hospital expenditures for 2009 was 724 billion dollars..If we assume a 5% margin the net revenue would be about 760 billion..The average hospital's cost to collect is about 4%..This equates to 30 billion spent on the revenue cycle..Through the application of the HIPAA business transactions,intelligent software and process redesign there is the potential of reducing these costs from 30 to 50%..A savings of 10 to 15 billion dollars a year for the industry..