According to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, principles designed to maximize efficiency and productivity in car factories, have assisted doctors at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in improving stroke treatment. 

The findings suggest that doctors who applied the principles of Toyota’s lean manufacturing process have significantly reduced the average time between patient arrival and treatment from 58 minutes to 37 minutes. The reduced wait time paves the way to early stroke treatment, which can help prevent brain damage resulting in paralysis and loss of speech.

In a Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis news release, researchers report that by gathering input from all team members, Barnes-Jewish Hospital doctors were able to identify inefficient steps involved in the treatment process. The collection of feedback in an effort to pinpoint efficiency is a key component in the lean manufacturing process, researchers add, and it is a key component behind the improvement of stroke treatment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Director of the cerebrovascular disease section in the department of neurology adds that, “Once the inefficient steps were identified, we developed a completely new protocol that eliminated them. This new treatment protocol helped us achieve one of the fastest door-to-needle times in the country.”

The concept of integrating the principles of lean manufacturing into a health care setting stems from discussions held by Barnes-Jewish experts who have reportedly had experience in applying them. The primary goal of lean manufacturing centers on identifying steps that are wasteful and do not add value, explains David Jaques, MD, vice president of surgical services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, professor at the school of medicine. “Lean principles used in manufacturing can be applied to patient care to create a higher quality, safer, and more efficient hospital,” Jaques says.

Two key issues the team identified involved repeatedly moving patients from location to another and back again, which they resolved by having patients taken directly to the CT scanner rather than an examination room, and that specific aspects of patient care performed in sequence could be carried out simultaneously with the help of additional staff. Lee notes that the organization also added new specialties to the treatment team, including social workers to assist in identifying individuals who were with the patient when the suspected stroke began. 

The treatment procedures, initially implemented in 2011, have lowered average door-to-needle times by 40% and have also increased the percent of patients treated within the “golden hour,” researchers say, from 52% to 72%.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis