Case study: TX hospital uses 'lean manufacturing' methods

At St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, administrators were as likely to get a patient letter saying that their experience was dreadful as they were to get letters praising the hospital experience. Hoping to eliminate such variations, CEO Dr. David Pate decided to apply techniques from "lean manufacturing," an industrial process designed to eliminate waste. In doing so, he joined high-profile players like Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which has also seen significant success with this approach.

The hospital began by standardizing critical processes, then worked on continuous improvements. For example, to save on needless phone calls, the hospital put up screens--much like those used in airports to track flights--that allowed doctors and nurses to know a patient's status at all times. It also worked to improve efficiency in accessing supplies.

The effort is paying off in many ways. For example, the hospital's emergency department has now managed to stay within the recommended 90 minutes for getting patients with chest pain assessed and through the heart cath lab for 10 months. And with the screens in place, phone time for coordination has gone down 80 percent.

To learn more about St. Luke's effort:
- read this Houston Chronicle piece

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