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The Heart of the Matter: Hospital’s Improved Diagnostic Process Saves Lives and Money

You expect to find many lifesaving techniques in hospitals—expensive medical research, groundbreaking procedures—but when it comes to treating patients with cardiovascular disease, the approach one Taiwanese hospital used might surprise you: data analysis.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Taiwan, so it’s no wonder the country’s healthcare professionals are looking for ways to improve treatment options.

That’s why a Lean Six Sigma project team at Cathay General Hospital in the city of Taipei examined the emergent angioplasty process for treating patients suffering from acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), a heart attack caused by coronary heart disease. Improving aspects such as the wait time between diagnosis and treatment could help to save many lives.

Doctors and quality managers from the hospital’s Quality Management Center used Minitab Statistical Software to assess the hospital’s process and confidently re-engineer both the diagnosis and treatment processes while increasing savings in medical resources.

The Challenge

A project team at Cathay General Hospital used Minitab Statistical Software to analyze data that would improve treatment for patients suffering from heart attacks. Above, the hospital is shown in its Taipei City, Taiwan, location.

Patients with STEMI are diagnosed through electrocardiogram findings and cardiac markers, and the recommended course of treatment for these patients is angioplasty completed within 90 minutes of arrival.

Medical professionals refer to this period as the door-to-balloon (D2B) time, because angioplasty involves inserting a small balloon inside the blocked blood vessel with a catheter. When inflated at the site of the blockage, the balloon enables blood flow to resume.

To maximize the patients’ chances for survival, the team needed to evaluate each step of the process. They needed to identify which variables were responsible for a D2B time that exceeded the recommended treatment time, and, more importantly, what adjustments could be made to minimize it.

How Minitab Helped

The team analyzed D2B time—which includes an electrocardiogram, the wait time before the operation, and the time for balloon inflation—using Minitab Statistical Software.

However, you can only trust the results of an analysis if you trust the data you’re analyzing. To ensure the data were trustworthy, the project team used Minitab to conduct a Gage R&R Study of their measurement system. This method evaluates a system’s precision, including its repeatability and reproducibility to ensure that measurements are consistent and reliable.

Minitab’s Assistant menu makes it easy to choose and use the right tool, even if you’re not a statistician. The dialog box above helps users create a data collection worksheet for a Gage R&R study.

Once they verified the precision of their measurements, the team analyzed D2B data from 40 STEMI cases that occurred over a nine-month period.

First, they tested the data to see if it followed a normal distribution, which is a key assumption in many types of analysis. The data were not normally distributed, but using Minitab the team easily applied a Box-Cox transformation to normalize it. The team then used the transformed data to create an I-MR control chart to evaluate if their process was stable over time. This type of control chart plots both individual observations (I) and the moving ranges (MR) to show how the mean and variation in the observations change over time.

The I-MR control chart above displays the normalized data from the Box-Cox transformation and identifies unusual sources of variation in the data.

The project team also used Minitab to conduct a process capability analysis to determine whether their process met performance specifications and provide insight into how they might improve their process. In this case, the upper specification limit for D2B time was 90 minutes. The results of the capability analysis confirmed that the hospital’s handling of STEMI cases had significant room for process improvement.

The team examined each step in handling a STEMI patient and identified several areas in which efficiency could be significantly enhanced, including confirming the diagnosis, medicating the patient, preparing for the operation, transferring the patient to the catheterization laboratory, and inflating the balloon.

Results

After assessing the STEMI process, the team implemented improvements such as sending patients who arrive with chest pain directly to an electrocardiogram test, printing treatment sheets automatically as opposed to writing them by hand, making a STEMI medication pack available in the emergency department, contacting the catheterization staff upon diagnosis confirmation, prepackaging all STEMI operation equipment in one box, and discontinuing the use of operation time as a forum to teach staff members who are not familiar with the procedure.

The team then collected additional data and reevaluated the process. Using Minitab to analyze the new data, the team demonstrated that the average D2B time dropped from 139.2 to 57.9 minutes—a 58.4% improvement. Furthermore, capability analysis showed that this new process could meet specifications.

A more efficient process means patients receive angioplasty more quickly, which saves lives. Moreover, the average hospital stay for STEMI patients has decreased by three days since the new process was implemented, and the hospital has saved $4.4 million in medical resources. The project was recognized by the Taiwan Joint Commission of Hospital Accreditation, and was awarded the Symbol of National Quality by the Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry.

Applying data analysis and Lean Six Sigma methods to the health care system doesn’t grab headlines like an experimental surgery might. But as more hospitals use data analysis to make procedures better, faster, and safer, its benefits will be seen every day in the faces of patients whose lives are saved.

Learn more about lean six sigma in healthcare :  Six Sigma Master Class – Improving Healthcare Processes

Mapping the Healthcare Value Stream

Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare: Improving Patient Satisfaction

Riverview Hospital Association
For providers like Riverview Hospital Association, serving Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. and surrounding areas, recent changes in the U.S. healthcare system have placed more emphasis on improving the quality of care and increasing patient satisfaction. “In this era of healthcare reform, it is even more essential for providers to have a systematic method to improve the way care is delivered,” says Christopher Spranger, director of Lean Six Sigma and Quality Improvement at Riverview Hospital Association. “We have had a Lean Six Sigma program in place for four years, and we are continuously working on ways to make our hospital safer and more efficient.

The Challenge

Under what is known as Hospital Inpatient Value-Based Purchasing (VBP), a portion of the Medicare payments hospitals receive are tied directly to patient satisfaction metrics and the quality of care, rather than entirely on the volume of Medicare patients treated. A new rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) grants Medicare incentive payments to hospitals that are meeting high quality of care standards, or have shown sufficient improvements. Hospitals that do not meet these standards are subject to a reduction in Medicare payments. “Nearly all hospitals treat a sufficiently large percentage of Medicare patients,” says Spranger, “so this rule presents a significant challenge with substantial financial implications for us—and for many other hospitals.”

Incentive payments are determined by how well hospitals score on two point-based domains. One domain takes into account the clinical process of care, where the hospital is judged on its performance in meeting twelve predefined clinical measures. The second domain is based upon the overall patient experience and measured through a survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). HCAHPS scores depend on the percentage of positive responses received for each question within each specific ”dimension,“ or category. Dimensions include communication with doctors and nurses, clarity of discharge information, overall hospital rating and more.

When Spranger and the Lean Six Sigma team at Riverview discovered that the hospital’s overall HCAHPS survey scores were lower than desired for the discharge information dimension, they set out to improve scores with Lean Six Sigma techniques and data analysis.

How Data Analysis Helped

The Lean Six Sigma team’s goal was to increase the percentage of “yes” responses for the following yes/no HCAHPS survey question: “During this hospital stay, did doctors, nurses, or other hospital staff talk to you about whether you would have the help you needed when you left the hospital?” To start, the team assessed their baseline performance by plotting outcomes from the previous 24 months with a Minitab control chart. The chart revealed a stable process and a current average positive monthly response rate of 85 percent. The goal was to improve positive monthly responses and exceed the preset benchmark of 91 percent.

Minitab Control Chart

To determine underlying factors that could be causing low scores, Spranger and the team chose to analyze data the hospital already had on-hand about the patient, which was collected as part of the HCAHPS survey. They had access to the responder’s age, gender, length of stay, primary language, education level, hospital unit visited and more. With Minitab charts, histograms and plots, they were able to explore the variables and responses graphically.

The team analyzed the variables further, and used the Minitab Assistant to guide their statistical analysis. They followed interactive decision trees to determine which analysis to use, and selected Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to compare sample means and to look for significant differences within variables that could be impacting the HCAHPS survey question.

Minitab Assistant

The Riverview team began this project with a preset assumption that differences in the education level or the primary language of the respondent might offer insight into the low scores, but their analyses of these variables revealed no statistical significance. However, analysis of other variables uncovered statistically significant differences within respondent age groups and the hospital unit visited.

Surpassing the Benchmark

The Riverview Lean Six Sigma team was able to narrow the project scope and use the insights they gathered to improve patient satisfaction for groups identified as scoring the lowest. “Historically, health organizations try to increase patient satisfaction through staff training and other large-scale solutions,” says Spranger. “Now, with a data-driven approach, we are able to better target improvements.” The improvements for this project targeted low-scoring patient groups from specific age ranges, as well as patients who stayed in specific hospital units.

The team also used the improvement effort to solve key problems identified in the current process for handling patient discharges, which included timing of education, ensuring the involvement of a family caregiver, and clarifying outcomes with the patient. They redesigned the discharge education process into three phases to address previous issues with timing, collaborated with primary care physician clinics to ensure consistency, created a process to ensure that a primary family caregiver was identified to engage in care management after discharge, and clarified terminology in discharge documentation that was considered vague.

After implementing these improvement strategies, the team compared the current proportion of “yes” responses to responses before the project began. They achieved an impressive gain in the proportion of “yes” responses and met their goal to surpass the 91 percent benchmark for average positive monthly responses.

Learn more about lean six sigma in healthcare :  Six Sigma Master Class – Improving Healthcare Processes

How to Use Value Stream Maps in Healthcare

Carly Barry 27 February, 2013

While value stream mapping, or VSM, is a key tool used in many Lean Six Sigma projects for manufacturing, it’s also widely used in healthcare.

Value stream mapping can help you map, visualize, and understand the flow of patients, materials (e.g., bags of screened blood or plasma), and information. The “value stream” is all of the actions required to complete a particular process, and the goal of VSM is to identify improvements that can be made to reduce waste (e.g., patient wait times).

Value Stream Map - example from manufacturing

How is VSM applied to healthcare?

When used within healthcare, one obvious application for VSM is mapping a patient’s path to treatment to improve service and minimize delays.

To accurately map a system, obtaining high-quality, reliable data about the flow of information and the time a patient spends at or between steps is key. Accurately timing process steps and using multi-departmental teams is essential to obtain a true picture of what’s going on.

To map a patient’s path to treatment, a current state map can be created in a VSM tool (we offer a powerful one in Companion by Minitab) to act as a baseline and to identify areas for improvement:

Current State Value Stream Map

In this example, the first step a patient takes is to visit his general physician (abbrev. “GP” above), and this is represented as a rectangular process shape in the VSM. The time the patient spends at this step can be broken down into value-added (“VA”) and non value-added (“NVA”) cycle times. VA is time the customer is willing to pay for: that is, the 20 minutes spent consulting with the GP. NVA is the time the customer is not willing to pay for, i.e., the 20 minutes spent in the waiting room before the appointment.

The dotted line arrow between process steps is called a push arrow. This shows that once a patient completes a step, they are “pushed” to the next step. This is inefficient, and a more efficient process can be designed by changing push steps to continuous flow or “pull” steps. The yellow triangles indicate the time a patient spends waiting for the next process. These steps are a non-value added action for the patient.

While VSM can certainly be done by-hand on paper, using computer-based tools like those in Quality Companion makes the process a lot easier. For example, Quality Companion automatically calculates and displays a timeline underneath the VSM, which adds up the total time to go through the entire system (aka “lead time”) and displays summary information.

By identifying all of the steps, you can start to map the whole process out, moving from left to right. Once you have mapped out the entire system, an ideal future state map can be created, and possibly a series of future states in between. These can identify areas for improvement, and once implemented, they can become the “new” current state map as part of an iterative quality improvement process.

How do you improve the current state map?

When looking for areas of improvement, try to focus on changes to improve the flow of patients through the process. Continuous flow is the ideal and moves patients through the system without them having to wait. However, continuous flow is not always possible, so instead other changes might be introduced—such as first-in first-out (FIFO).

Also be sure to take a look at the takt time, which can help you decipher the pace of customer demand. In this case, takt time can be interpreted as the number of patients that can be treated per unit of time. Quality Companion will calculate takt time automatically.

Once you have completed the current and future state maps, you can compare the two, quantify improvement opportunities, and look at how to implement the changes. In this example, the triage and sort/appointment steps might be combined so that fewer visits to the hospital were required by the patient and they receive treatment faster.

To see another example value stream mapping, check out this video that features a scenario from Companion’s extensive help system:

Learn more about lean six sigma in healthcare :  Six Sigma Master Class – Improving Healthcare Processes

Congratulations Michael Cossiart on Becoming a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt!

7/7/2017 For Immediate Release – Phoenix, Arizona * United States

TPMG would like to congratulate Michael Cossiart for successfully completing the Lean Six Sigma Excellence in Healthcare Delivery Black Belt Certification program and earning his lean six sigma black belt!  He successfully completed the rigorous 16 unit – 65 lesson online blended lean six sigma black belt workshop by passing the certification examination with distinction.  The goal of Michael’s lean six sigma black belt certification project was to improve the throughput and productive capacity of his hospital’s radiology department.   His black belt project successfully eliminated 80 hours of non-productive wait time per month, decreased overtime by 44% ($245k annual savings) and increased the capacity to serve 22 more patients per month.  Congratulations Michael!

Michael Cossiart serves as a Program Manager in Performance Improvement at PeaceHealth.  He has more than 14 years professional experience in healthcare and served as an industrial engineer for 3 years at the Boeing Corporation.

Michael earned his Masters in Business Administration  from Western Washington University and holds a Bachelors Degree in Industrial Engineering from the Oregon Institute of Technology.

The Performance Management Group’s Lean Six Sigma Excellence in Healthcare Delivery Black Belt Certification Program is specifically designed for professionals who work for healthcare clinics, hospitals and systems. TPMG has been certifying green belts and black belts for more than 15 years. The company provides lean six sigma certification on-site, online, and on-campus (at the University of Phoenix) nationwide. For more information regarding lean six sigma training, certification and consulting – contact TPMG llc at 623.643.9837 or logon to www.helpingmakeithappen.com.

Congratulations Heather Kincaid on Becoming a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt

3/23/2016 For Immediate Release – Phoenix, Arizona * United States

TPMG would like to congratulate Heather Kincaid for successfully completing the Lean Six Sigma Excellence in Healthcare Delivery Black Belt Certification program and earning her lean six sigma black belt!  She successfully completed a rigorous 16 unit – 65 lesson online blended lean six sigma black belt workshop by passing the certification examination with distinction.  Her lean six sigma certification project’s objective was to optimized the ambulatory work flow in the orthopedic clinic(s) she supports.  Heather expertly used the DMAIC improvement model along with lean management and the six sigma analytic tool set to bring about favorable sustained changes.   Her improvement plans addressed the root causes and produced results that showed a marked improvement in the clinic as well as realized savings from the staffing model.  Her project produced savings of $157, 184 (annualized) that will continue to pay dividends every year going forward. Congratulations Heather!

Heather Kincaid is a Process Engineer for the Wexner Medical Center Management Engineering and Process Improvement team and has been a respected member of the team since 2012.  She holds a Masters of Science in Industrial Engineering from The Ohio State University and a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Mathematics from Denison University.

The Performance Management Group’s Lean Six Sigma Excellence in Healthcare Delivery Black Belt Certification Program is specifically designed for professionals who work for healthcare clinics, hospitals and systems. TPMG has been certifying green belts and black belts for more than 15 years. The company provides lean six sigma certification on-site, online, and on-campus (at the University of Phoenix) nationwide. For more information regarding lean six sigma training, certification and consulting – contact TPMG llc at 623.643.9837 or logon to www.helpingmakeithappen.com.

Congratulations Felicia Sadler on becoming a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt!

1/07/2016 For Immediate Release – Phoenix, Arizona * United States

TPMG would like to congratulate Felicia Sadler for successfully completing the Lean Six Sigma Excellence in Healthcare Delivery Black Belt Certification program and earning her lean six sigma black belt!  She successfully completed a rigorous 16 unit – 65 lesson online blended lean six sigma black belt workshop by passing the certification examination with distinction.  In addition, she service as a Malcolm Baldrige examiner on the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence Board of Examiners.  Ms. Sadler was selected to serve on a Level 4 team which evaluated an applicant from the healthcare sector.  As a member of the team she:

  • Conducted an independent review of the written application addressing all 17 items of the Criteria for Performance Excellence.
  • Consolidated findings from Independent Review for assigned items during the Consensus Review stage.
  • Participated in Consensus Meetings to reach agreement on the organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement to verify/clarify during site visit.
  • Participated in a 3-day Site Visit at the applicant’s facility, where the team interviewed staff, reviewed documents, and toured facilities.
  • Participated in post-site visit meeting to review findings, and finalize feedback comments.

Congratulations Felicia!

Felecia is Vice President of Quality and Performance at Prophecy Healthcare.  She holds a BSN in Nursing from South University and an MJ in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.  Felicia has over 25 years of successful experience as a nurse, clinical educator and healthcare administrator.

The Performance Management Group’s Lean Six Sigma Excellence in Healthcare Delivery Black Belt Certification Program is specifically designed for professionals who work for healthcare clinics, hospitals and systems. TPMG has been certifying green belts and black belts for more than 15 years. The company provides lean six sigma certification on-site, online, and on-campus (at the University of Phoenix) nationwide. For more information regarding lean six sigma training, certification and consulting – contact TPMG llc at 623.643.9837 or logon to www.helpingmakeithappen.com.

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