At the core of all organizations are their operating systems. Excellent organizations
continuously measure, study, and make improvements to these systems. Solutions to many of the problems facing healthcare organizations can be found in increasing flow or decreasing variability. For example, a key operating challenge in the most healthcare environment is the efficient movement of patients within a hospital or clinic, commonly called “patient flow.”
Efficient patient movement in healthcare facilities can significantly improve the quality of care that patients receive and substantially improve financial performance. Patient flow optimizations opportunities occur in many healthcare settings. Examples include operating suites, imaging departments, and urgent care centers. There are many causes of poor patient flow, but the main reason discovered by many investigators is the variability of scheduled demand.
The first step in improving a system processes description and mapping. However, when a process is linked to form systems they become more complex. These linked processes benefit from process mapping because process maps provide a visual representation, allow for branching a process, provide the ability to assign and measure the resources in each task in a process, and are the basis for modeling the process via computer simulation software.
Once a system has been mapped, a number of techniques can be used to improve the process, these improvements will result in a reduction in the duration, cost, or waste in a system:
Eliminate a non-value-added activity
Eliminate duplicate activities
Combine related activities
Process in parallel
Alternative process flow paths and contingency plans
Information feedback and real-time control
Quality at the source
Let the patient do the work
Theory of constraints