The pursuit of quality is not a new concept in healthcare. In fact, Danbury and New Milford hospitals have refined their focus on critical patient quality factors over the last several decades, more recently adopting methods for improvement that were first introduced in Henry Ford’s factories and later perfected in the manufacturing environment of Toyota. Lean-Six Sigma methodologies that spawned at Motorola in the 1980s, and were further developed by GE and Allied Signal, are now finding their way into healthcare.
When applied to the delicate business of serving patients with leading medical science and compassionate care, Lean-Six Sigma’s main emphasis is to improve quality by reducing variations in care. First introduced at Danbury Hospital in 2006, this balanced approach to streamlining processes will be critical for Western Connecticut Health Network to ensure that both hospitals remain leading healthcare organizations regarded with high value among patients, payers and regulatory bodies.
Throughout the many quality initiatives at both hospitals, Lean-Six Sigma is helping to improve quality, while maximizing productivity and controling costs. It is helping to ensure that our services meet the needs of patients through a continuous review of process improvement throughout the organization.
Interdisciplinary teams are engaging in process improvement throughout the network, learning to “define, measure, analyze, improve and control” aspects of care and help crystallize organizational change recommendations that will ultimately improve quality. The application of Lean-Six Sigma has already helped to improve transport and treatment times for patients with acute heart attack, standardize the process for admitting patients to the hospital, and improve the discharge process to help reduce admission to the hospital.
The current era of reform has intensified the pressure on hospitals and health systems nationwide to contain the growing cost of providing healthcare, while improving the quality of care delivered. Danbury Hospital emerged as one of two national leaders for collaborating with physicians to succeed at meeting this dual challenge, earning the 2011 CRIMSON® Physician Partnership Award – in recognition of improvement in clinical outcomes while documenting a combined $4.6 million in annualized savings with its co-recipient, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ.
The awards, now in their second year, are presented to administrator-physician leadership teams at organizations that are members of the CRIMSON physician performance technologies cohort. CRIMSON is a division of The Advisory Board Company, Washington, D.C., which helps hospitals and health systems advance quality goals and secure cost savings by eliminating inefficiencies in care delivery.
“These two members have achieved breathtaking gains in organizational performance by effectively engaging physicians – not just as clinical decision-makers but also as business partners,” said Paul Roscoe, CEO, CRIMSON. “Hospital-physician collaboration that produces demonstrable value will be central to success in the coming accountable payment environment. We applaud these hospitals for their ongoing commitment to efficient care that benefits patients and the larger community.”
Danbury Hospital was honored for its DRG (diagnosis-related group) Cost Efficiency Project, which targeted eight high-volume DRGs and improved outcomes, while achieving $2.9 million in savings. For example, over the project’s first 12 months, the institution improved key measures for stroke patients, including a 10 percent reduction in the 30-day readmission rate and an 8 percent cut in average length of stay, while trimming average actual charges by 12 percent.
“We achieved our goals by working with physician champions to identify unnecessary variations in care, establish new target rates for core measures, monitor progress monthly, and hold ourselves accountable to a dashboard reviewed quarterly by senior hospital leadership and our Board of Directors,” said Matthew Miller, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Danbury Hospital. “Outcomes for this project became part of the operational goals for the hospital, and our success has led us to add DRGs to our efforts and take a broader look at opportunities to improve utilization.”
Danbury Hospital’s Critical Care Unit received the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence, an award given by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and designated to recognize the nation’s top pediatric, progressive, and adult critical care units across a multitude of hospitals. The recognition itself is priceless, as it represents extraordinary commitment to high-quality critical care standards, and dedication to the exceptional care of patients and their families.
As a Beacon Award recipient, Danbury Hospital’s Critical Care Unit succeeded in multiple areas of operations, as measured against evidence-based national criteria, including recruitment and retention, education, research, patient outcomes, ethics, and a healing environment.
“The Critical Care Unit has always been committed to providing the highest level of care. Being recognized with the Beacon Award underscores the dedication of the staff to maintain the highest standards of patient care and acknowledges the exceptional outcomes,” said Carol Polito, R.N., Manager, Critical Care Unit.