Take the LEAP! How to Achieve Clarity and Remove Waste in Your Hospital's Workflow

By Sue Ann Davis

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done?  Or that you or your organization is going through the motions of getting work done, but don’t feel accomplished at the end of the day?

When you’re that busy, it can be hard to stop and take time to evaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and why.  However, I promise you that investing the time and energy will pay dividends.

In 15 years working on process improvement projects in hospital settings, I've seen many attempts from different executive teams to try to improve patient flow, throughput and other internal processes with mixed results. 

What if I told you that there is a trick to help you gain efficiency and get rid of massive waste in your hospital’s workflow? 

The trick is simple!  Make the LEAP and get the right people in a room to talk to each other. 

It’s through the meaningful conversations in this room that we gain clarity on process, roles, and purpose. The key is having all roles, who typically do not interact with each other, collaborate and contribute to improving overall process. 

For example, to review the ED admission process, you would include ED nurse, Patient Access, ED Physician, Admitting Physician, ED case manager, Inpatient nurse, Bed Control/Bed Management, Transport, Housekeeping, etc.

Hospital workflows can be greatly improved through simple communication strategies

Once you have the right people in the room, how do you achieve clarity about the roles and processes involved?

Here are 4 key focus areas to make the LEAP to drive a meaningful and productive conversation:

Duplicate efforts can cause bottlenecks in your units

Listen for Duplicate efforts – I cannot tell you the number of times I have participated in one of these meetings and heard of the same exact task completed by up to three different people from completely different departments.  Not only were they not aware, they also would come up with three different results for the same task.

Determining the best owner of the task results in more accurate performance for the facility and efficiency gains for all roles.

Wasteful process make nursing units highly efficient

Eliminate Waste/non-value added work - One of my favorite questions to ask in these sessions is why? Often we get so caught up in what we are doing that we don’t stop to ask “why am I completing this task?” Sometimes there is a clear purpose, but other times the answer is “I don’t know” or “we’ve always done it this way.” 

Maybe it was a state requirement that is no longer in effect or maybe a previous leader required it for personal reasons.  Asking “why” is the quickest way to identify and eliminate waste or non-value added work in the process.

Empowering your staff with information and enabling communication is key

Assist staff in understanding the impact of their department’s actions on another – It is amazing to see the connections people make (light bulbs go off!) when you gather individuals from various departments in a room together to discuss an overall process.  People quickly realize the ripple effect of the decisions they are making. 

While it may improve things for their department, they are unintentionally negatively impacting another. The key in these sessions is to ensure that any change or decision you make first considers what’s best for the patient and then what’s best for the organization as a whole.

Promoting alignment of care teams can help spread these best practices throughout the whole organization

Promote Care team alignment and purpose – At the end of these sessions, each role should have clarity on their responsibilities and their contribution to the overall process.  With clarity of purpose, individuals are more likely to timely and accurately complete their work.  In addition, they will feel more accomplished at the end of the day.

Role clarity can certainly pay dividends in terms of both efficiency gains and your staff satisfaction and engagement. Here’s the best part though…  Satisfied, engaged staff ultimately enable us to provide a safer and better patient experience, and that is clearly a role all of us want to play!