Compiled by Neal Learner, Contributing Writer
By combining Kaizen methodologies with real-time asset tracking technology, Health First has reduced patient discharge times, wait times, and overall length of stay.
When it comes to large, integrated health systems, the accumulation of wasted minutes, hours — and even days — can result in millions of dollars in unnecessary spending, not to mention damage to patient care and satisfaction levels. But the days of watching time and money slip down the hospital drain may be numbered. Organizations are turning to Lean methodologies, which have long driven efficiencies in the manufacturing sector, to tackle wasteful processes that bedevil the healthcare sector.
Health First, the only fully integrated healthcare network in Central Florida, is seeing remarkable improvements by applying Lean methodologies to many of its administrative and clinical processes. The provider began its Lean journey three years ago, and, to date, the initiative has reduced Health First’s hospital discharge window from more than 9 hours to a mere 1.7 hours, exceeding national best practice standards of 2 to 2.2 hours. Lean methodologies have also reduced average lengths of stay at Health First’s large level 2 trauma center from 5.75 days to 4.4 days, freeing up roughly 80 more beds per day. At the same time, Health First has increased its patient transfer volume by 30 percent, allowing more patients who had been waiting for specialized care to occupy the trauma center’s newly open beds. Meanwhile, Lean methods have allowed Health First to decrease its emergency department wait times by 70 percent, even as ED visits have increased 12 percent.