What Japanese Automakers Can Teach Oklahoma City Hospitals About ER Efficiency

Nov 21, 2014

It’s the time of year when a lot of people are thinking about health care. Many private employers’ option periods just wrapped up, and on November 15 annual enrollment opened for the Affordable Care Act.

The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo says many Metro hospitals are using online appointment booking methods to try to improve efficiency. St. Anthony uses InQuicker to try to improve patient satisfaction by allowing them to wait at home, and keeps them out of waiting rooms with other patients who may be infectious.

The tool helped St. Anthony increase the frequency of visits by residents from certain ZIP codes that previously weren’t represented in the system, spokeswoman Sandra Payne said, declining to offer specific details. Payne estimated that 4,000 patients use the system each year.

St. Anthony is part of a growing trend. The website estimates that 6,000 or more patients nationwide use the system each month. At Deaconess, patients can view an average ER wait time on the hospital’s website.

But other hospitals in Oklahoma City are looking across the Pacific to Japanese automakers for inspiration. Integris, Mercy, and the OU Medical System are using lean principles from Toyota’s manufacturing line.

To find the inefficiency in treating a stroke patient, doctors and nurses map a patient’s journey from admissions to discharge. Then staff members from each department map the treatment process for a patient, and how they are transferred to the next department. The goal is to become more efficient and not inadvertently push more work to another department.

By looking at the process from the patient’s perspective, the lean system can identify and remove barriers that prevent each department from working together cohesively, said Briton Segler, [Integris] director of metro neurosciences. Segler said that by shaving 19 minutes off the time a doctor can administer the anti-clotting drug, they can save an average of 38 million neurons, depending on the type of stroke. That could mean the difference between walking out of the hospital to live a normal life or living the rest of one’s life in a nursing home with constant care.

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