Clinical Process Improvement: Inspiration from Unlikely Places

A few months ago, Optimium Health formed a strategic partnership with MS2, a health consulting firm specializing in hospital patient flow efficiency. OHI and MS2 share a firm belief that clinical process improvement is a key contributor to improving both the patient experience and the care organization’s operational performance, including lowering costs and increasing revenues.

We also share a belief that healthcare can learn from other industries to solve some of its problems.For example: it can learn from restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, which delivers quality and consistency across more than 200 menu items in 164 locations (reference my June 7, 2013 post), and manufacturers like Toyota, which use LEAN thinking to ensure the journey of how something gets done is as important as the outcome of what gets done (reference my April 1, 2013 post). And, we also believe healthcare can learn from an item most of us keep in our kitchen drawer.

What Can We Learn From Funnels?

A few years ago, Dr. Emilio Belaval, the founder of MS2 wrote an article about Emergency Department (ED) capacity and used the analogy of how a funnel works to illustrate his points:

When a hospital doubles ED physical capacity, it never doubles inpatient capacity nor doubles the number of radiologists, consultants, lab techs, analyzers, transporters, etc. As such, even a modest increase in ED volumes puts significant strain on all the ancillary departments we need to help us service demand and the inpatient units we need to unload admitted ED patients to. This markedly increases variability in system interfaces and increases the time patients actually spend idle in ED beds.

To illustrate this, close your eyes and imagine we are pouring sand into a three-dimensional funnel. As we pour sand on the top of the funnel some sand makes it to the bottom opening and exits the funnel but, if we pour sand more briskly, the funnel will eventually fill up as sand is being poured in faster than it can exit. The sand that spills over the top (because it does no longer fits in the funnel), represents patients accumulating in the ED waiting room and hallways.

Read the full article here.

Affordable, Sustainable & Tailored Solutions

We love the funnel analogy since it combines the laws of science with what we know as “common sense” because we experience it in our everyday lives. Importantly, it helps us visualize the complexity of a clinical process issue in a simple way. Dr. Belaval goes on to write about how we can use lessons from the funnel to make sure we consider the big picture when tackling patient flow and process inefficiency. For example, fixing one thing in isolation may lead to bottlenecks upstream or downstream once the whole process is set into motion.

If you have issues with ED efficiency or clinical process issues in perioperative, chemotherapy, radiology, and other critical areas of care delivery please contact us for a free consultation. Optimum Health, in partnership with MS2 where appropriate, will do our best to find a solution that is affordable, sustainable, and tailored to your organization’s needs. Email

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