Tyrone Hospital takes lean approach

TYRONE – Not all Tyrone Hospital officials are driving Toyotas these days, but the Toyota presence can be felt at the hospital.

Tyrone Hospital and Fulton County Medical Center, McConnellsburg, recently partnered to bring the Toyota Production System, also known as “Lean Healthcare” concepts, to their hospitals.

The “Lean Healthcare” concept program started at Toyota Motor Co. and has since expanded to other industries. According to Toyota’s website, the program is designed to optimize quality through improving processes and eliminating unnecessary waste in natural, human and corporate resources.

“It is an effort to improve the efficiencies in health care by eliminating processes. We identify steps that don’t bring value, and we try to eliminate those steps,” said Stephen C. Gildea, Tyrone Hospital CEO.

“There is a lot of waste in health care. A big organization like a hospital has a lot of inefficiencies and waste.”

Seven members of Tyrone’s leadership team and eight from Fulton County Medical Center participated in the training, which alternated between the two hospital campuses. Training was done by instructors from Penn State DuBois Continuing Education.

The first step in the process is to define the issues and problems, map out the current conditions and ask why the hospital does what it does. The next step is to assess the problem, identify an improved process to eliminate the waste and inefficiencies and put together and implement the plan and test it, Gildea explained.

Tyrone Hospital worked on a few projects during the training process. One was on improving the process for managing medications. Another was simplifying the process of getting technicians into the operating room to service equipment.

The biggest project involved all of the processes associated with pre-surgical preparation, Gildea said.

The hospital is already using the new concepts, which will benefit both the hospital and its patients, Gildea said.

“The goal is to improve the patient experience. We want to be efficient and keep the costs down and to improve the business operations and outcomes. If it is easy to get in and out and the quality is good, the patients will come back,” Gildea said.

He said customer service will be at a new level for patients.

“The patients won’t have a delay in their experience when they come in for surgery,” Gildea said. “Excellence is our goal here in everything we do. We want patients and families to be totally satisfied with the care and all of the processes associated with that care.”

Amy Vereshack, director of performance improvement at Tyrone Hospital, will serve as a trainer to other staff members.

“I think a lot of times in health care when we are presented with a problem, we want to fix it immediately. Sometimes they are hard to fix. This makes you look at the whole process. It breaks it down step by step,” Vereshack said. “I think it is an amazing program to improve patient care and patient satisfaction.”

She said the new program is not about cutting positions, but rather about maximizing efficiency in every position.

“It is about taking the processes you have and streamlining them to make them more efficient and more patient friendly,” Vereshack said.

Deb Shughart, Fulton County Medical Center CFO, said she was impressed with the program.

“It has been an excellent opportunity to help our staff learn other operations,” Shughart said. “We have learned a more efficient way to work and save staff time. We have identified some changes that we must make through the system, which will result in more revenue.”

Shughart said the new practices should reduce wait times for patients throughout the hospital.

The program was brought to the hospitals and funded by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.