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Hospital Cuts MRI Wait Time From 28 Days To 3

December 28, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Pediatric Radiology
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Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, has borrowed some strategies from the manufacturing world and reduced the average wait time for an MRI exam from 28 days to no more than 3 days.

The hospital has been so successful in improving overall efficiency that it’s one of six worldwide finalists for the International Quality & Productivity Center‘s Best Process Improvement Under 90 Days award. The winner will be announced next month.

Two years ago, Akron Children’s Hospital adopted a business-improvement methodology called Lean Six Sigma, a blend of the lean-production concept derived from Toyota’s production system and the Six Sigma strategy developed by Motorola in 1986. Lean production focuses on speed, and Six Sigma focuses on quality.

Lean Six Sigma includes four main goals: delight the customer by delivering higher-quality service more quickly; improve processes by eliminating anything unacceptable to the customer and streamlining work flows; use teamwork and share ideas; and base all decisions on data and facts.

A hospital’s customers are its patients (and, in the case of Children’s Hospital, their parents). “If you have a child who needs an MRI, you don’t want to wait around for four weeks,” said Mark Watson, president of Akron Children’s Regional Network. Watson was quoted in an Akron Beacon Journal article by medical writer Cheryl Powell.

An employee team spent a week examining the hospital’s radiology department. It determined that the hospital should obtain MRI authorization from the patient’s insurance company much earlier in the process. It also suggested ways of improving coordination between the radiology staff and physicians who provide sedation services for many of the MRI patients.

As a result of those and other ideas, Watson said, the hospital now provides more than 112 MRI exams a week, compared with 84 before the project started. That has meant an additional $1.7 million in gross reimbursements for the hospital.

Overall, Watson said, the hospital has saved an estimated $9.8 million in the past two years as a result of Lean Six Sigma-related changes. It has spent about $248,000 for Lean Six Sigma training.

Those are the kinds of numbers that make both patients and hospital administrators happy.

Related seminar: National Diagnostic Imaging Symposiumâ„¢

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