Making improvement a way of life: The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)

Making improvement a way of life: The Hospital for...

By embedding Lean throughout the organization, this Canadian hospital is creating a culture where every employee is excited about doing things better.

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The challenge

Prior to 2010, SickKids had experienced small pockets of success with Lean techniques in their laboratories, where the assistance of external consultants brought some improvements in turnaround times.

The hospital had acknowledged the need to be more efficient in the way it adopted changes, setting up a project management office to rigorously vet any prospective projects to ensure they were of strategic priority, and to provide updates on all project progress to the senior executives.

The journey

SickKids’ Lean journey began in earnest in 2010 when the board championed strategic improvement in its 5 year plan. A number of Lean experts were recruited from other industries such as aerospace and energy, to train and coach staff and work on new projects.

As it moves towards value-based healthcare, there is an increasing focus on efficiency as an important measure of quality.

SickKids has embarked on a number of successful initiatives, not just in clinical processes but also in back office functions such as supply chain, procurement and Human Resources, resulting in high satisfaction scores from both patients and staff. For example, new joiners now settle in and become productive far quicker than before, thanks to a Lean approach to recruitment and onboarding.

According to Jeff Mainland, Vice President, Strategy, Performance and Communications at SickKids, the new culture of continuous improvement is encapsulated in the daily ‘huddle board’ meetings between senior nurses and their teams on the wards, where ideas are raised and if possible actioned: “Despite initial skepticism, these meetings have become a way of life and over time are attracting more and more people, who see them not as administration but as part of their day job.”

Success to date

Units that have implemented the principles of Lean management have shown significantly higher staff engagement scores, which is creating much interest from other units wanting to come on board. The organization is also seeing an impact in areas such as patient satisfaction and hand hygiene, where units have increased compliance from 60-70 percent to levels consistently above 90 percent.

As Jeff Mainland concludes: “It is all about building a culture where people come to work every day thinking about how they can do things better. By getting rid of waste, our staff have more time to spend on the important activities that they were originally trained to do – which is caring for patients.”

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