Akron Children’s honored for Lean Six Sigma project


Akron Children’s Hospital received an honorary mention award at the International Quality and Productivity Center’s Lean Six Sigma & Process Improvement Summit on Jan. 19 in Orlando, Fla.

The award is for a project that improved the efficiency in scheduling MRIs at the hospital, resulting in quicker access for patients and increased revenue.

The award was in the category of “Best Process Improvement Project Under 90 Days,” with Akron Children’s competing against five international companies and organizations.

In 2008, Akron Children’s created its Center for Operations Excellence and had several employees trained in Lean Six Sigma processes, which are closely associated with manufacturing, particularly Toyota and Motorola.

MRI scheduling was targeted as a project due to patient wait times to get an appointment and when the purchase of a second MRI machine did not proportionately improve the number of daily exams.

A “kaizen,” a two-day rapid improvement process bringing together radiologists, radiology technologists, schedulers, nurses and the employees who handle insurance authorization and registration, was held in August 2009 to tackle the problem.

The solutions, which included modifying a master schedule, changing the insurance authorization process, and implementing standardized work instructions, resulted in a significant increase in the number of daily exams performed.

“Before the kaizen, the hospital was doing about 86 MRIs per week. Now, on average, we are doing 112,” said Doug Dulin, senior director for the Center for Operations Excellence. “That is good news for our patients and the physicians who are waiting on the results of those tests. Instead of waiting 25 days for an uncomplicated exam, families can now schedule same-day appointments.”

The process improvement project also has had a significant impact on the hospital’s bottom line, with $1.2 million in additional revenue attributed to better MRI scheduling since the project was completed.

Chris Weisbrod, Carol Arteno, and Michael Rubin, MD, presented the case study at the IQPC Conference.

Since the creation of Akron Children’s Center for Operations Excellence two years ago, Lean Six Sigma philosophies have become woven throughout the organization with nearly 400 of the hospital’s 4,000 employees having undergone training, numerous eight-week (A3) projects initiated by front-line workers, several COE project leaders receiving their Black Belt certification.

These projects have generated a direct and indirect financial impact of  $7.8 million for the hospital.

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