4 Steps for Improving Hospitals' Use of Data to Support Lean Initiatives

From registration forms to nurses' notes to bills, hospitals have a significant amount of data they can use to improve processes. Tracking data can be particularly useful when using Lean manufacturing techniques to cut waste and improve efficiency. However, many hospitals do not collect or apply their data appropriately. Ted Stiles, partner and vice president of executive search for Stiles Associates, a retained Lean executive search firm, explains how hospitals can improve their use of data in four steps, and how this can support their Lean efforts.

1. Determine metrics. The first step is determining the performance metrics that are valuable to the organization. For example, if a hospital aims to improve patient flow in the catheterization lab, it needs to track the number of patients who enter the lab, how long they spend in the lab and other variables. Knowing what to measure can help hospitals organize what may otherwise be an overwhelming amount of data. Determining metrics also forces hospitals to identify their goals for Lean process improvement.

2. Establish measurement process.
Secondly, hospitals need to establish a system for measuring the data every day. Hospitals can use information technology systems, like electronic health records, to collect some data, and/or can assign staff to collect data. Measuring data provides a base of fact hospitals can use when analyzing their processes using Lean techniques.

3. Review data daily. Hospitals need the discipline to review performance metrics daily, according to Mr. Stiles. This practice enables hospitals to identify and address problems quickly. For example, if a cath lab notices the amount of time spent treating patients is trending upwards, it can immediately do a root cause analysis and intervene to reach its goal, Mr. Stiles says. Looking at data in real time supports the Lean principle of managing for daily improvement, according to Mr. Stiles.

4. Make data visible. Cleveland Clinic, which employs Lean leaders for process improvement, makes data visible to all stakeholders, including physicians, nurses, staff and leaders, Mr. Stiles says. This visibility makes everyone aware of their performance in both the short and long terms, so they can take steps to improve when necessary. Data visibility allows frontline staff to drive process improvement, a key tenet of Lean.

More Articles on Lean in Healthcare:

Back to Basics: Understanding the 5 Performance Dimensions of Lean in Healthcare
Lean as an Alternative to Mass Layoffs in Healthcare

Do Healthcare and Manufacturing Mix? Finding Lean Leaders Who Can Cross Industry Boundaries

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