How Can You Leverage Manufacturing Quality Improvement Techniques to Improve the Reliability of Your Healthcare Facility?

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Power reliability in healthcare facilities is strongly related to the quality of healthcare delivery. In fact, a survey amongst facility managers by Schneider Electric identifies the subject as a chief concern affecting hospital revenue and reputation. A reliable electricity supply is vital for access to patient data, medical and back-office equipment and even entertainment and information systems. And as we move forward into the Internet of Things (IOT) age, it’s safe to say that being able to charge a cellphone or smartwatch could have a material impact on services like remote health monitoring.

The challenge is that power cuts are becoming more and more frequent says Allianz, a leading global insurance company. It adds that this is “owing to the lack of incentives to invest in aged national grid infrastructures in Europe and the US… energy from decentralized, ‘volatile’ renewable sources is not well aligned to work on electricity grids… (and) as more and more grids are interconnected, a blackout in one region can trigger a domino effect that could result in supraregional blackouts.”

The financial impact of extensive power disruption was amply demonstrated during the August 2003 blackout in North America. It affected 45 million people in eight US states and a further 10 million in parts of Canada. Healthcare facilities experienced hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue from cancelled services, legal liability, and damaged reputations. Six hospitals were in bankruptcy one year later.

This is a problem for the industry as healthcare facilities have exceptionally low tolerances for power disruptions and require extraordinary reliability from their power systems. Minor fluctuations can impact the delicate voltage requirements for MRI and CT scanners. More extensive power events can affect life support systems, as well as critical ancillary infrastructure systems such as HVAC, communications, records management and security – which must all remain online at all times.

Statistics show that the majority of errors in healthcare facilities are the result of shortcomings in processes, e.g., replacing parts which don’t require replacement, or having poor routines for testing critical equipment, or having incomplete contingency plans. At Schneider Electric, for example, our day-to-day work across a wide range of industries brings us into contact with various process improvement techniques that have been used to advance the quality of healthcare.

These techniques have been employed as effective, safe, patient-centered, timely efficient and equitable techniques and include PDSA (plan-do-study-act, also known as PDCA; plan-do-check-adjust), Six Sigma, Lean and Root-cause analysis help to identify inefficiencies, ineffective care and preventable errors, and then help influence changes to provide a path to quality improvement. What’s more, they can be applied to everything from plant maintenance to ward cleaning!

PDSA cycles (the terms PDSA and PDCA are used interchangeably) have been used to drive improvements in the quality and safety of healthcare. The method is widely used to provide a structure for iterative testing of changes to improve the quality of systems. Users follow a four-stage learning approach: In the Plan stage a change aimed at improvement is identified; Do, sees this change tested: the Study stage examines the success of the change, while Act identifies adaptations and next steps to inform a new cycle. Some PDSA approaches have been demonstrated to result in significant improvements in care and patient outcomes.

First implemented by Motorola in the 1980’s, Six Sigma has since seen widespread adoption in the quest to measure and improve quality. Its five-step approach to problem solving (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control or DMAIC) is highly process and data driven, resting on facts and statistics rather than gut-feel to validate performance improvements. Specially trained, Six Sigma experts normally advise and champion such campaigns within their own organizations, helping them meet evolving targets such as increased customer expectations and budget pressures.

Lean manufacturing, or lean production is tightly linked to the manufacture of Toyota automobiles, and is a systematic method for the elimination of waste within a production system so that all work adds value and serves the customer need. It takes into account the waste created through high levels of inventory, unevenness or inconsistency in product quality, and requires managers to focus on process improvement to effectively build quality into the product or service being delivered. The link between manufacturing and healthcare is well defined in that in both industries workers rely on multiple, complex processes to accomplish tasks and add value.

When seriously adverse healthcare incidents occur, it’s important that lessons are learned because often lives, or quality of life is at risk. To prevent the risk of the same thing happening elsewhere, Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a well-recognized and structured retrospective investigation method. RCA seeks to identify underlying problems that increase the likelihood of errors while avoiding focusing on mistakes by individuals. It uses the systems approach to identify both active and latent.

Healthcare facilities are constantly expanding and buildings are reconfigured to add equipment and services to accommodate new patient needs. At the same time, their competitive edge is becoming increasingly dependent on modern technology, resulting in more complex systems, processes and power requirements. To help you gain full control for troubleshooting and potentially life-saving decision-making, Schneider Electric offers full integration using software to visualize the complete system. For more information about our solutions and services for Healthcare providers, please click this link.

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