Health & Safety

March 27, 2012

Medical team goes Lean to save

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1st Lt. Ryan Decamp
Airman 1st Class Devante Williams
Tech. Sgts. Rolando Guerrero, 56th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy NCO-in-charge, and Kristina O'Meara, 56th MDOS Family Health Flight education and training NCO-in-charge, review a "patient's" symptoms and prescribe treatment March 5 during the Lean For Healthcare course taught on Luke Air Force Base. The course involved the more than 40 students running through an emergency room exercise where instructors timed each step in providing care to patients. Students said the course taught them to see where they can remove wasted time and resources, allowing doctors and technicians more time to provide care while doing so with fewer resources.

Do you like long waits for medical appointments? I didn’t think so. The 56th Medical Group doesn’t like you waiting either, and they chose to do something about it.

They decided to get “Lean.”

More than 40 students from a handful of Air Force bases attended the Lean For Healthcare course taught March 5 to 9 on Luke Air Force Base. The students included medical doctors, nurses and NCO-technicians from across military medical fields.

“It’s Lean because it has less waste in the process, and it uses fewer resources,” said Keith Leitner, University of Tennessee Center for Executive Education faculty member, who helped teach the course and oversaw the training. “Lean is a philosophy that allows you to remove wasteful activities that occupy resources and diminish good, quality care.”

The course began with classroom time covering subjects like where the Air Force medical need is and analyzing case studies of emergency rooms across the U.S. Then the hands-on work began.

Instructors split students into two teams. Students were instructed to build an emergency room from scratch, using tables to represent buildings. They used large index cards to symbolize rooms where patients would receive care and smaller multi-colored index cards representing tests or supplies such as X-rays, casts and crutches.

Teams essentially played a medical war game. Virtual patients entered an emergency room, and based on what symptoms were on their cards, the medical staff chose what care to give them. The instructors timed each step of the process.

“When they came in with the stopwatch and they were going to time every procedure, I was sitting back going, ‘this is just a waste of time,’” said Maj. Jeanine Hatfield, 56th Medical Operations Squadron Medical Services Flight commander and pediatric nurse practitioner. “Then as they took those times and put them in a system; it showed us where the waste was and how to get rid of it.

“My eyes were opened. This can work. It’s not about doing more with less. It’s about doing a better job of what we do.”

The teams competed to see who could treat 100 simulated patients while providing quality care, without mistakes.




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