“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.