Canton Health Center Goes Lean
Call management commandoes lead lean charge at the Canton Health Center
When the Canton Health Center decided to tackle its responsiveness to patient calls, they learned that many small steps add up to a big impact.
“At first, we felt like we had bitten off more than we could chew,” says Cheryl M. West, Health Center manager. “But by using lean tools, we broke things down into manageable parts.”
West and F. John Brinley III, M.D., medical director of Canton Health Center, are the project’s process owners. Process owners are responsible for the smooth running and continuous improvement of the process. The process is defined as the series of steps or operations to produce a product or service.
The group focused on a “once and-done” mentality and established three major deliverables, or concrete outcomes. They were:
- Maximize R.N. availability for patient calls requiring medical expertise
- Make sure health care providers are ready and available to talk to patients; and
- Improve the prescription renewal process and eliminate unnecessary prescription requests.
In order to get to these deliverables, at least 50 process improvement steps were taken, including placing signs in exam rooms reminding patients to ask for prescription refills, encouraging patients to use the Web to request refills, scheduling more flu shot clinics to avoid overflow onto the nursing schedule and moving nurses into two of Canton’s three call center locations. They also standardized and streamlined their scheduling guidelines, reducing scheduling errors.
By March 2007, clerical staff were able to complete calls 71 percent of the time, freeing up R.N.s for calls needing an R.N.’s attention. And repeat prescription calls were reduced to just 1 percent of all calls taken.
“There isn’t one success that stands out. There are a whole lot of little successes that led to big improvements for many people,” West says.
One of these “little successes,” is the 5S Redesign of each call center workstation. 5S Redesign is a lean tool that helps you standardize and organize space so that no matter which workstation you’re sitting at, you’ll know exactly where things are. “This is great because now nurses don’t have to lug everything with them when they go to a call center,” says West. “Headsets, triage books, forms and more are right there, exactly where they expect them to be. This saves an incredible amount of time and frustration.”
“With lean, everyone gets an idea of how everything—and everyone—fits together,” she says. “Suddenly, you can see the obstacles, the barriers and the decisions that have to be made.”
Canton’s long-range goal is to serve its patients even better by combining its three call center locations into one. Stay tuned!
Read about other lean initiatives happening throughout the Health System.