"These were things within their work environment that they could control," Newton explained.
He provided details of cost-saving measures enacted by Swedish Covenant Hospital staff:
- The emergency department used evidence-based research to determine that a more cost-effective type of irrigation solution would be just as safe and effective, saving an estimated $10,800 a year.
- The inpatient pharmacy implemented stewardship efforts for distribution of antibiotics, which saved an estimated $60,000.
- Operational changes were implemented to reduce infection rates and improve many other quality measures.
- Nursing units stopped printing lab results and other items that could be viewed electronically ;
- Radiology continued conversion from film to digital images;
- Medication formularies built into the EMR system mean physicians automatically order the most cost-effective, appropriate medications available
- Some nursing units placed "turn off the lights" reminders by every light switch to save electricity costs; patient monitors and equipment in rooms were turned off when not in use
- The surgical recovery area created a schedule to streamline staffing which saved $24,577 in overtime;
- Increase in market share by 1.39% from 2008 to 2009; Volumes were higher – partially thanks to employee efforts:
- Employees became active ambassadors for hospital services among family, friends, neighbors as well as physicians;
- Testing and rehabilitation services departments made special efforts to encourage patients to attend their appointments, such as reminder phone calls. This ultimately improved patient outcomes and recovery.
It's rare to see this type of effort expended to avoid a few dozen layoffs, but Newton says it shouldn't be.
"I don't know why it's so rare," he says. "It's not that brilliant of an idea. It's a little unconventional. But the bigger picture is that it gets the egos and the formalities out of the way in the workplace. You deal with people respectfully, tell them how they're accountable, and they'll respond."
Although Swedish met its goal, and was able to avoid layoffs, Newton is careful to say that this type of employee engagement becomes ingrained, which is the key benefit of the exercise beyond the $3 million saved. He cautions, however, that the big, easy savings are not easily repeatable.