Hospitals' Lean Journey Starts with Baby Steps

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , April 11, 2011

The staff would dispense medication from the system and charge it to a patient, but they weren’t providing the supporting documentation for the administration of the drugs. Without the software the limited number of auditors wouldn’t have been able to track the number of instances this activity took place and then work with their pharmacy to verify patient orders.

“This program helped us fix that and our processes,” explains Allen. “It also helped us look at and correct some compliance issues,” she says.

Phoebe Putney has been able to identify consistent coding mistakes and work with and train coders to avoid these errors. Moreover, the system also revealed that the labor and delivery department was processing patients incorrectly.

“If a patient delivered at night or on the weekend they were likely not going to pay for it because the staff wasn’t charging for it. We had a breakdown in communication between staff members. So, we implemented a new process to correct that, and then our charge capture software helped us determine if the new process was being followed,” Allen explains.

Though the intent was to use charge capture software to improve the department’s own inefficiency and increase the bottom line, what the hospital found was that one process improvement leads to another. 

NOCH and Phoebe Putney offer glimpses of how early-stage process improvements can yield results on a small scale. What happens when healthcare leaders embrace process improvement as an organizational philosophy and encourage Six Sigma or Lean to influence every aspect from billing to care delivery? Next week we’ll look at two large providers who have done just that—which made them financially stronger and improved the quality of their care.

Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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