Process improvement can be one of those things that’s easy to read about, but hard to put into practice. That’s why, sometimes, it’s good to find a model – a person or organization who acted on what they learned about process improvement. Someone who created real, meaningful change with Lean and Six Sigma principles.

Well, if you’re looking for inspiration, you found it.

The Salina Regional Health Center, in Kansas, has completely embraced Lean. To date, the hospital has trained more than 1,000 people in Lean methodology, and they’ve spearheaded Lean campaigns in every single department of their health center.

Why Process Improvement?

In the last few years, the healthcare landscape has experienced some sharp turns and unexpected shifts. Back in 2013, Salina Regional Health Center felt the effects.

According to their website, their profit margins were thinning out. They were having trouble hiring. They felt like they were being over-regulated by the government. And all of these things inspired them to change the way they did business.

They wanted to improve the quality of their care, the safety of their patients, and the engagement of their employees – and they were prepared to totally change their company culture to do it.

They hired a man named Brian Weisel to help them create this change. Weisel, it turned out, was a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

Salina’s Lean Six Sigma Journey

It’s been more than five years since Salina Regional Health Center made the decision to pursue Lean process improvement. Since then, they’ve conducted more than 1,000 Lean projects within the walls of its organization.

“… the principles of Lean are universally applicable,” said Weisel, who is now the health center’s Quality Improvement Director. Speaking with the Salina Post, Weisel said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re baking bread, manufacturing automobiles, providing a service or taking care of patients. Eliminating waste in our processes and pursuing perfection by making continuous improvements cuts across all business sectors.”

Weisel is the one responsible for training Salina’s employees on the Lean Six Sigma methodology. And typically, under his tutelage, the organization’s Lean projects have two aims…

  1. Improve flexibility and versatility
  2. Reduce waste

So far, staffers have worked to streamline things like surgical scheduling, laundry services, pharmaceutical distribution and more. The results, to this point, have been staggering.

  • The average process improvement project takes, on average, less than 85 days
  • These projects have saved Salinas more than $7.25 million over five years
  • Employees and patients are both empowered, because they’re invited to offer insight on process improvement

Salina feels that, with Lean Six Sigma principles backing them up, they’re ready to meet the sharp and unexpected shifts in America’s ever-changing healthcare industry. Because, according to the philosophies of Weisel, healthcare will always be about one thing – helping the customer.

“Improving patient or customer experience,” claimed Weisel, “is what Lean really is aimed toward. But employees see benefits from reduced waste as well. They’re encouraged to be involved in improving processes. Customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction can both be positively impacted. There is no downside to Lean.”

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