Category Archives: Health care

Video Overview of the PDSA Cycle

Robert Lloyd, PhD From the IHI Open School‘s, presents a nice overview of the PDSA Cycle (plan-do-study-act). The webcast includes an example of using PDSA to improve the discharge process for a hospital.

As I have said many times the keys to success are to turn the PDSA cycle rapidly, predict the results in advance, and analyze the results to continually improve. the Improvement Handbook is an excellent resource.

The IHI Open School is a great resource and exactly the type of thing organizations with a mission to improve performance should be doing. Provide resources online that are easy for people to access and then apply in their organization. See more management webcasts.

Related: Tom Nolan on PDSASaving Lives: US Health Care Improvement5 Million Lives Campaign

Blame the Road – Not the Person

The system is responsible for 90, 92, 94, 97% of problems – W. Edwards Deming. Fix the system, don’t blame the people. When you seek system fixes you approach situations differently than if you search for people to blame.

By the way, I am often asked about the data supporting Deming’s contention that the system was responsible for 97% of the problems. This statement was not based on a set of data but on Dr. Deming’s decades of experience. And he increased the percentage over time – as he learned more.

Roads that are designed to kill

Half blamed the runner, saying she should not have been running in the street at that hour. Half blamed the driver, for not paying close enough attention. Not a single writer blamed the road.

Your streets are designed to kill people.

Vision Zero started about 30 years ago, when traffic safety researcher Claes Tingvall got the idea that we didn’t have to accept road traffic deaths as a fact of life. Tingvall and his colleagues said that these deaths were not “accidents’’ but were predictable and preventable. And they set out to prove it.

One of the ways they began to protect people was to put barriers down the center of two-lane roads. They showed that this could be done cheaply. When Mylar – a strong polyester film – is supported by closely spaced plastic poles, it can keep cars from crossing the median. When the Swedes used this type of center barrier to separate the traffic going in opposite directions, they effectively prevented head-on collisions and the death rate on these roads fell by 70 percent to 80 percent.

Global health research shows more improvements can save lives. For example, Ghana put in rumble strips – small bumps spaced closely together – across all the roads leading into the capital city of Accra, reducing fatalities by 35 percent. Research has shown that speed bumps on roads are one of the “best buys” in all of global health.

Most people think we are doing all that can be done to keep our roads safe. They are wrong. Road traffic injuries kill more than a million people a year worldwide, including 40,000 a year in the United States.

Is a situation killing 40,000 people in the USA a year a health care issue? It sure seems to me it would be. It probably isn’t a disease management issue though (some might try to say bad roads are a disease but I wouldn’t say that). I think this is one, of many examples, that shows that we have a disease and injury management system not a health care system (in addition to illustrating systems thinking, effective root cause analysis, PDSA, innovation, respect for people…).

Related: Find the Root Cause Instead of the Person to BlameTraffic Congestion and a Non-SolutionChecklists Save LivesSaving Lives: US Health Care ImprovementThe Economic Benefits of Walkable CommunitiesSWAT Raid Signs of Systemic FailuresSystem Improvement to Respond to the Dynamics of Crowd DisastersThe Leading Causes of Death

Community Medical Care Successes

The Cost Conundrum by Atul Gawande, New Yorker (The Power of a Checklist was published there in 2007 by the same author)

For example, Rochester, Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic dominates the scene, has fantastically high levels of technological capability and quality, but its Medicare spending is in the lowest fifteen per cent of the country—$6,688 per enrollee in 2006, which is eight thousand dollars less than the figure for McAllen. Two economists working at Dartmouth, Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra, found that the more money Medicare spent per person in a given state the lower that state’s quality ranking tended to be. In fact, the four states with the highest levels of spending—Louisiana, Texas, California, and Florida—were near the bottom of the national rankings on the quality of patient care.

I talked to Denis Cortese, the C.E.O. of the Mayo Clinic, which is among the highest-quality, lowest-cost health-care systems in the country. A couple of years ago, I spent several days there as a visiting surgeon. Among the things that stand out from that visit was how much time the doctors spent with patients. There was no churn—no shuttling patients in and out of rooms while the doctor bounces from one to the other. I accompanied a colleague while he saw patients. Most of the patients, like those in my clinic, required about twenty minutes. But one patient had colon cancer and a number of other complex issues, including heart disease. The physician spent an hour with her, sorting things out. He phoned a cardiologist with a question.

“I’ll be there,” the cardiologist said. Fifteen minutes later, he was. They mulled over everything together. The cardiologist adjusted a medication, and said that no further testing was needed. He cleared the patient for surgery, and the operating room gave her a slot the next day.

The whole interaction was astonishing to me. Just having the cardiologist pop down to see the patient with the surgeon would be unimaginable at my hospital. The time required wouldn’t pay. The time required just to organize the system wouldn’t pay.

The core tenet of the Mayo Clinic is “The needs of the patient come first—”not the convenience of the doctors, not their revenues. The doctors and nurses, and even the janitors, sat in meetings almost weekly, working on ideas to make the service and the care better, not to get more money out of patients. I asked Cortese how the Mayo Clinic made this possible.

“It’s not easy,” he said. But decades ago Mayo recognized that the first thing it needed to do was eliminate the financial barriers. It pooled all the money the doctors and the hospital system received and began paying everyone a salary, so that the doctors’ goal in patient care couldn’t be increasing their income. Mayo promoted leaders who focussed first on what was best for patients, and then on how to make this financially possible.

No one there actually intends to do fewer expensive scans and procedures than is done elsewhere in the country. The aim is to raise quality and to help doctors and other staff members work as a team. But, almost by happenstance, the result has been lower costs. [actually the Deming Chain Reaction] Continue reading

CEOs Want Health-Care Reform

Decades ago Dr. Deming emphasized the deadly disease of excessive health care costs in the USA. Since then, year after year, the situation has become worse (reaching $2.2 trillion in spending in 2007 – 16.2% of GDP). During that time senior executives has put forth very little serious effort (in comparison to the huge cost) to fix this problem. Finally, in the last few years, more and more senior executives are actively moving to address the ever worsening crisis (including, Howard Schultz, CEO at Starbucks).

They seem to be realizing that hoping the problem will just fix itself is not a great strategy. Finally senior executives are realizing they need to have the government address the systemic failures. Those executives need to keep up their efforts because those seeking to retain the system that doesn’t work, because they personally benefit from it, have been doing a great job of preventing progress for decades. Until a critical mass of senior executives demand change from Washington the chance of improving the relative performance of the USA health system in comparison to other countries is very bleak (we have just been getting more expensive and less effective [relative to other countries] over time).

CEOs Secretly Want Health-Care Reform

Carl T. Camden, CEO of Kelly Services (KELYA). Managing insurance for his vast, geographically dispersed workforce of temporary workers is horrendously expensive, he complains: “My health-care costs total more than my profits.”

But in private, “CEOs overwhelmingly want out of this business,” says Benjamin Sasse, an Assistant Secretary of Health & Human Services under President George W. Bush who’s now an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “They just do not want to be seen as more willing to dump [benefits] than their competitors are.” Sasse says many CEOs he has talked with would even pay a new tax if it got them out of the insurance business.

Related: Many Experts Say Health-Care System Inefficient, WastefulArticles on Improving the Healthcare systemApplying Disruptive Thinking to the Healthcare CrisisOur Failed Health-care System
Continue reading

USA Spent $2.2 Trillion or $7,421 Per Person on Health Care in 2007

Health spending in the United States grew 6.1 percent in 2007, to $2.2 trillion or $7,421 per person.
For comparison the total GDP per person in China is $6,100. This continues the trend of health care spending taking an every increasing portion of the economic output (the economy grew by 4.8 percent in 2007). This brings health care spending to 16.2% of GDP (which is yet another, in a string of record high percentages of GDP spent on health care). In 2003 the total health care spending was 15.3 of GDP.

With the exception of prescription drugs (which grew at 1.4% in 2007, compared to the 3.5% in 2006), spending for most other health care services grew at about the same rate or faster than in 2006. Hospital spending, which accounts for about 30 percent of total health care spending, grew 7.3 percent in 2007, compared to 6.9 percent in 2006.

Spending growth for both nursing home and home health services accelerated in 2007 (4.8% v. 4.0%). Spending growth for freestanding home health care services increased to 11.3 percent. Total health care spending by public programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, grew 6.4% in 2007 v. 8.2% in 2006. In comparison, health care spending by private sources grew 5.8% compared to 5.4%.

Private health insurance premiums grew 6.0 percent in 2007, the same rate as in 2006. Out-of-pocket spending grew 5.3 percent in 2007, an acceleration from 3.3 percent growth in 2006. Out-of-pocket spending accounted for 12.0 percent of national health spending in 2007. This share has been steadily declining both recently and over the long-run; in 1998, it accounted for 14.7 percent of health spending and, in 1968, out-of-pocket spending accounted for 34.8 percent of all health spending.

The costs for health services and supplies for 2007 were distributed among businesses (25%), households (31%), other private sponsors (4%), and governments (40%).

Decades ago Dr. Deming included excessive health care costs as one of the seven deadly diseases of western management. We have only seen the problem get worse. Finally it seems that a significant number of people are in agreement that the system is broken. Still, admitting the system is broken is not the same as agreeing on how to fix it. The way forward to workable solutions still seems very difficult.

Full press release from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Related: Many Experts Say Health-Care System Inefficient, WastefulInternational Health Care System PerformanceUSA Paying More for Health CareHealth Insurance Premiums Soar AgainPBS Documentary on Improving Hospitals

ER Checklist

The popular ER TV show highlighted the importance of using checklists in surgery yesterday.

Such powerful quality tools, like the checklist, are just waiting to be used. But far too many fail to use these simple improvement tools. And in health care those failures are potentially critical.

Related: Checklists Save LivesThe Power of a Checklistmanagement improvement dictionaryArticles on Improving the Health Care System

Applying Disruptive Thinking to the Healthcare Crisis

Update: Sadly MIT delete the video. It is a shame educational institutions lose interest in knowledge just a couple years later. Thankfully we didn’t have to rely on the people deleting web content at universities to keep all the historical content we have in books from hundreds of years ago. I think it is a huge lose to what the mission of these schools should be but that attitude doesn’t seem to be shared by the schools.

The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution to the Healthcare Crisis:

Christensen spies symptoms of such disruptions bubbling up in the healthcare industry, such as molecular diagnostics, imaging technologies and high bandwidth telecom, and business model innovations. Integrated health systems like Kaiser Permanente have a leg up in deploying and optimizing these disruptive technologies.

The push for widespread healthcare reform must come from employers, who in spite of their declared intent to cut healthcare costs also know “they profit when their employees are healthy and productive.” Affordable healthcare, he concludes, “doesn’t come by expecting high end, expensive institutions or expensive caregivers to become cheap, but by bringing technology to lower cost providers and venues of care, so they can become more capable.”

Clayton Christensen is the rare management thinker that I feel real provides profound insights into thinking about management. There are many other good management thinkers that offer valuable idea, just most of them (in my opinion) really are presenting material in ways that offer managers a good way to take action on all the long known good management ideas that we fail to adopt successful for decades.
Continue reading

Checklists Save Lives

photo of surgery room

Checklists are a simple quality tool that have been used widely for decades. Pilots use them, without fail, to save lives. Some surgeons have been using them and the evidence is mounting that checklists can save many more lives if more in health care use them. Studies Show Surgeons Could Save Lives, $20B by Using Checklists

Eight hospitals reduced the number of deaths from surgery by more than 40% by using a checklist that helps doctors and nurses avoid errors, according to a report released online today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If all hospitals used the same checklist, they could save tens of thousands of lives and $20 billion in medical costs each year, says author Atul Gawande, a surgeon and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In his study, which was funded by the World Health Organization, hospitals reduced their rate of death after surgery from 1.5% to 0.8%. They also trimmed the number of complications from 11% to 7%.

The study shows that an operation’s success depends far more on teamwork and clear communication than the brilliance of individual doctors, says co-author Alex Haynes, also of Harvard. And that’s good news, he says, because it means hospitals everywhere can improve.

Researchers modeled the checklist, which takes only two minutes to go through, after ones used by the aviation industry, which has dramatically reduced the number of crashes in recent years.

This is more great evidence of the value of applying simple management tools that are already well known. The idea that improvement takes brand new breakthrough ideas is just plain wrong.

Related: Using Books to Ignite ImprovementThe Power of a ChecklistNew, Different, BetterManagement Improvement History and Health CareOpen Source Management TermsFast Company Interview with Jeff Immelt

The Ergonomics of Innovation

The Ergonomics of Innovation by Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton

the IHI case teaches us that innovations spread quickly when organizations focus relentlessly on selecting and spreading ideas in ways that ease the burden of thought and action for everyone involved. This mind-set differs from the one that burdens most organizations, where innovation
is seen as difficult, expensive, and protracted. The IHI staff’s ergonomics-of-innovation mind-set focused on making things easier and cheaper for everyone, including the staff itself.

IHI focused on small things that had a big impact without placing a big load on hospital staffs (reducing the number of infections, for example, hinged on frequent and thorough hand washing). In this way, the organization adopted what Karl Weick calls a “small wins” strategy.

Berwick and his team believed that simply asking hospital staffs to “try harder” to save lives wasn’t enough; people need concrete, easily learned and implemented tools.

Related: Saving Lives: US Health Care Improvement5 Million Lives CampaignPBS Documentary: Improving HospitalsHospital Reform – IHI on CBSArticles on Improving Health Care PerformanceDrug Prices in the USAposts on innovation

Our Failed Health-care System

The bad idea behind our failed health-care system by Malcolm Gladwell

One of the great mysteries of political life in the United States is why Americans are so devoted to their health-care system.

Americans spend $5,267 per capita on health care every year, almost two and half times the industrialized world’s median of $2,193; the extra spending comes to hundreds of billions of dollars a year. What does that extra spending buy us? Americans have fewer doctors per capita than most Western countries. We go to the doctor less than people in other Western countries. We get admitted to the hospital less frequently than people in other Western countries. We are less satisfied with our health care than our counterparts in other countries. American life expectancy is lower than the Western average.

Health Savings Accounts represent the final, irrevocable step in the actuarial direction. If you are preoccupied with moral hazard, then you want people to pay for care with their own money, and, when you do that, the sick inevitably end up paying more than the healthy. And when you make people choose an insurance plan that fits their individual needs, those with significant medical problems will choose expensive health plans that cover lots of things, while those with few health problems will choose cheaper, bare-bones plans.

In the rest of the industrialized world, it is assumed that the more equally and widely the burdens of illness are shared, the better off the population as a whole is likely to be. The reason the United States has forty-five million people without coverage is that its health-care policy is in the hands of people who disagree, and who regard health insurance not as the solution but as the problem.

This is another article with an interesting take on the problems with the broken health care system in the USA. I don’t totally agree with the conclusion. I think the failure of the system and refusal to make substantial change have multiple causes including: smart lobbyists paying politicians lots of money to support their interest in keeping the current system, people being fearful about change, false perceptions about the system performance (thankfully an understanding of the poor performance is becoming more widespread recently), that the system works least poorly for the wealthy who have more influence than those without insurance, that the benefits of spending huge amounts today are going to specific companies and people and thus are available for buying political support (not just paying politicians but also funding marketing campaigns, experts to provide journalists the position of those in favor of the existing system…) while the benefits of changing are much more distributed. Luckily companies are increasingly – decades after Deming noted this health care costs are a huge problem for companies in the USA – focusing on the need for improving what is often one of the largest expenses for companies. The issue many fail to understand is how much the excessive costs of health care in the USA harm the ability of companies in the USA to compete – many even fail to appreciate the human cost of tens of millions of people without health insurance.

Related: Drug Prices in the USAMeasuring the Health of NationsOverview of 5 Nations Health Care SystemsFixing Health CareImproving the Health Care System