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IT's Key Role in Lean Healthcare

 |  By  
   January 07, 2014

Our guest columnist recounts the IT-clinical partnership at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System that reduced ED patient walkouts by 1.2% and increased co-pay collections by 26%.

Guest column by Maggie Ratliff, Vice President & CIO, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, with Brian Murphy, IT Technical Director

Maggie Ratliff, Vice President & CIO,
Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System

Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System is going Lean. Our organization, a regional health system in central Illinois, has implemented a very aggressive process improvement strategy based on Lean Six Sigma practices. While the effort necessarily involves many functions within the organization, IT has a particularly important role to play.

In less than two years, the process improvement program has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in verified savings. We created a new "Performance Excellence" department and trained a number of facilitators to lead the charge. In just a few months, the Performance Excellence group has already conducted dozens of Rapid Improvement Events (RIEs). Further, to ensure that day-to-day Lean thinking is ingrained into our corporate culture, all directors, managers, and supervisors are now required to complete a Lean training course in their first year of employment, where they learn the tools and techniques of Lean and initiate their own improvement projects.

While Lean Six Sigma has many facets, the basic strategy is surprisingly simple. By focusing on driving the waste out of our processes and creating systems for continuous improvement, we reap the benefits not only of cost control but also improved quality of patient care.

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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