Continuous Improvement Part 5: Methods and Tools for Healthcare in Northeast Ohio

For a continuous improvement project to be effective and sustainable, it requires a systems approach involving the entire organization. Management should guide the organization in four fundamental areas to ensure success:

  1. Purpose: Maximizing customer value;
  2. Process: Continually improving speed and defects for factory and office;
  3. People: Involving people in improving the process, providing knowledge, and tools;  and
  4. Sustainable Culture: Encouraging change, communicating success, and results.

Here’s an example of how this systems approach to continuous improvement can yield great results, even in industries seemingly unrelated to manufacturing:

During the past several years, MAGNET has worked with healthcare institutions in Northeast Ohio to refine best practice techniques for implementing Lean and other continuous improvement tools in the healthcare environment. The Lean approach’s effectiveness has long been proved in many other industries, including manufacturing, services, business/office processes, and information technology.

For example, in 2009 and 2010, MAGNET partnered with the Humility of Mary Health Partners (HMHP) in Youngstown, Ohio, to pilot a Lean continuous improvement project for HHMP’s three facilities that employ more than 5,000 workers. As a result, in 2010 alone, HMHP realized $1.7 million in savings from reduced overtime.

The HMHP project clearly demonstrated that a Lean and continuous improvement approach is effective in the healthcare environment and delivers significant return on investment.

The method that MAGNET consultants have utilized at HMHP and other healthcare providers in the region is based on acknowledged Lean principles. Key elements include:

  • Strategy development with senior management;
  • Chartering teams to analyze and execute improvements in areas identified by management; and
  • Developing a plan with management to sustain improvements and results in their businesses.

MAGNET’s method includes 10 essential steps:

  1. Education on Lean tools, their applications, and barriers to success;
  2. Identify critical processes, Lean methods, and metrics for improvement;
  3. Prioritize and select key processes for improvement;
  4. Develop the case for change, and communicate to the organization;
  5. Develop team charters, establish, and facilitate teams for analyzing and implementing solutions in their designated processes;
  6. Use Lean tools analyze the current state and develop a future state plan, typically using value stream mapping;
  7. Develop an action plan and manage the plan with regular status reviews to implement the improvements;
  8. Implemented tracking/reporting tools and education for managers to enable real-time monitoring of process metrics;
  9. Ensure public recognition of each team’s success; and
  10. Maintain management support for the change process and continuous improvement efforts.


“HMHP is proud of the fiscal responsibility we have displayed in this unprecedented effort and we thank our many employees for working together, with support from MAGNET, to reduce our overtime costs while simultaneously maintaining the excellence in patient care and service that we are known for,” said Robert Shroder, HMHP President and Chief Executive Officer in an HHMP press release dated May 10, 2010.

We at MAGNET are interested in hearing about you and your organization’s continuous improvement results, and the effectiveness of the  methods and tools you use. Comment below or email me at Let us know what is working and what is not.

Posted by MAGNET Ohio in Healthcare-Industry, Lean-For-Business-Administration, Lean-For-Healthcare, Process-Improvement

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