A Lean Machine: How Lean Methodology Can Streamline OR Processes

One approach to improving operating room efficiency is lean methodology, which focuses on streamlining processes. Sue Kozlowski, senior consultant for the healthcare solutions division at TechSolve, explains the lean process and provides a real life example.

1. Engage front-line people. A key concept of the lean process is "respect for people." In the OR, this respect is recognizing that the people who directly work with OR processes are best equipped to identify practical ways to create efficiencies in those processes. "Empowerment is not just a buzz word. [OR staff] are engaged in the process of change," Ms. Kozlowski says. Taking front-line people out of the OR environment to brainstorm together allows them to break down processes into their component parts.  

2. Observe the process. When thinking about opportunities for improvement, groups should go into the OR and directly observe the processes to more easily identify areas of "waste," or parts of a process that do not add value. Ms. Kozlowski cites a hospital where this observation step helped OR staff recognize an error in their cleaning process: they were not allotting five minutes for the disinfectant to set in after spraying.

3. Brainstorm solutions. Once staff identify problems in a process, they should brainstorm solutions. In the case described above, the team thought of several options for improving the cleaning process, including finding a spray that changes color once it becomes effective, using a spray that does not have a lag time, using an egg timer or completing a separate task during the five minutes.

4. Implement changes.
OR staff should begin implementing the solutions they developed. The OR group working to improve the cleaning process evaluated and tried each of their ideas in turn until they found one that was successful. They streamlined the process by doing another task during the five minutes the spray set in and then returning to complete cleaning the room. "Just by reorganizing and resequencing the process they [achieved] safer patient care," Ms. Kozlowski says.

Learn more about TechSolve.

Related Articles on OR Efficiency:

Improving Operating Room Efficiency in Five Days
Hospital OR Turnover Challenges and Solutions: Q&A With Dr. John Di Capua of North American Partners in Anesthesia and North Shore-LIJ Health System

Dr. Richard Kube: How Spine Surgeons Can Maximize Efficiency of ORs

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