Cross-Functional Team Finds Efficiency: A Chase Group Ltd. Case Study
Case Studies are particularly useful in the healthcare industry for a number of reasons. One may wish to improve efficiency, cut down costs, increase the health status of patients, provide better care in every aspect; and reading firsthand case studies of other healthcare executives experiences in trying to do these things will help your planned project avoid mistakes while achieving better results all the same. Here at Chase Group Ltd., we have helped healthcare leaders all across the market achieve success in implementing many wholly different and unique strategic projects. Therefore, we wish to share with you one specific story of success Chase Group Ltd helped achieve to give you an idea of what a Case Study looks like, and how to use ours to help you grow as a worker.
Chase Group Ltd took on a project in Chicago for Mercy Health Center. Mercy is a 425-bed hospital, a large sized hospital by bed count, located right in South Chicago with around 2300 employees. The hospital was facing a lot of issues: increasing expenditures, heavy competition from other providers in the area, employees who were not focused or motivated in achieving growth and/or goals for the hospital, and most notably patients were being held for too long! All these problems combined leave you with one general problem, efficiency. The longer your patients are being held in the hospital due to low efficiency, the more money you are needlessly spending. When your hospital is inefficient, employees lose motivation and vision. This left Mercy Hospital executives with a couple of questions: why is this happening? And how do we solve it?
When Chase Group Ltd. entered into business with Mercy to help their new CEO solve these issues, three goals for the new year were decided on; improving employee culture, improve efficiency, and standardizing processes. In essence, she wanted the hospital to become agile and quick to move. The goal was to identify the core cause of the problem… why are patients staying longer than they should be? One of the issues acknowledged was in returning patient lab test results. Patients were spending at times a whole extra day just waiting for lab results! Obviously, this is not beneficial to the hospital or patient satisfaction; and it was determined that this was where we must focus. This is quite the tall order, Lab Testing as a process begins with many different departments, people, and processes all working together to get a test delivered and done. Physicians aren’t able to discharge patients without knowing and reading the results of the test, so patients were basically forced to wait for the slow processes in place to conclude. The key to solving this, then, lies in outside-the-box thinking. How do you make a system more efficient when it is to be assumed everyone is already operating as efficiently as they can? You must change the system. And so, everyone involved in the lab process from start to finish was put in a room together to construct a project plan, a plan that would improve the lab process and its efficiency metrics. It wasn’t that these employees weren’t working as hard as they can, its that this hard work was being wasted on a system that wasn’t delivering.
Chase Group founder Robert Bonhag consulted with his friend Dr. Edward Deming, who revolutionized the world of manufacturing through his statistical processes and theories. Deming applied something called “Statistical Process Control” to Japanese industries rebuilding with American help after World War Two. Deming’s teachings and work in Japan are credited as being largely responsible for the Japanese economic miracle that took place in the latter half of the 20th century. Deming’s ideas of Statistical Process Control and Process Improvement are what we decided must be implemented, and that it would solve the issues at hand. It employs sampling and data analysis techniques to analyze a system in real-time, which allows implementers to find a stable output value and find out where variations in the system are coming from. Using this technology, we developed the necessary measures and metrics that we use to measure the impact of new improvements to the lab system. In doing so, we were able to determine which ideas to improve the system were especially effective, and which were not.
What our team learned, however, is that STAT blood tests typically only take around 1-2 hours’ time to get results, compared to Routine Testing. This still presents a new challenge, though, as now every test needed to be processed and ready in 1-2 hours. However, to get STAT tests done, an entirely new process needed to be developed and implemented. As you can see, solutions are never that simple.
STAT tests need to be moved down to the lab from different floors in large volumes, delivered, and the tests themselves need to be handled quickly so as to deliver the intended results. Once again, cross-department teamwork was needed in coming up with various solutions and figuring out how to measure them. We facilitated this creative process, and ultimately a solution was identified. The next step for this project would be the development of a pneumatic tube system, which would quickly deliver blood samples directly to the lab. Special carriers were designed to keep the samples safe from breaking on the way to the lab, and this was a success. Now that the system was changed, addressing lab employee procedures was next. A routine was established for technicians to follow, that provided maximum efficiency for developing samples. In a time before integrated computer records, everything had to be printed. Chase Group and Mercy were able to develop a method to get results printed on the unit, in order to get results to the doctor as fast as possible. Overall, things were running smoother, more efficiently, and to a statistical tee that allowed for any variation to be rectified immediately. Deming would be ecstatic. Aside from normal variations, the time to get results back to doctors was just around 2 hours.
So, what are the outcomes of this project? Well firstly, Mercy learned that cross-functional/cross-departmental teams are able to accomplish things that benefit the whole hospital, as well as think creatively to solve a problem. This led to better departmental communication, teamwork, and motivation. Secondly, patients weren’t staying in Mercy Hospital as long! Efficiency was up, patient satisfaction was heightened, health outcomes were improved, and in the first year of implementing this new system, Mercy Hospital saved $4.2 Million. To further drive home the success of this project, in year two Mercy saved an additional $5.5 Million. This leads well into another major outcome and lesson learned, that you must always be measuring the results of your system before, during and after you implement a new project. How can you know where to focus efforts without measurement before? How can you see progress without measuring during? How can you gauge success without measuring after?
In general, Chase Group Ltd.’s work at Mercy highlights what’s necessary for finding success in solving a problem facing any business, and what is required of employees to innovate and improve.
Chase Group Ltd.