Leveraging Technology in a Time of Unprecedented Change

Seasoned executives confirm that we are entering into one of most tumultuous times in the history of healthcare. When Doug Hawthorne, CEO of Texas Health Resources, declares that, “I have never seen so much change occur in such a short period of time. It is unprecedented and we’d better be ready.” Well, we need to be ready!

Not only are we experiencing a virtual explosion of new technology that combines high-speed image processing and technological capacity, we are experiencing breakthroughs in genome research that are beginning to enter our oncology treatment through clinical trails. Yes, indeed, we are entering an unprecedented era of change.

One area of immediate change is how healthcare professionals are embracing non-traditional technologies from other industries.

This same technology that has been used by the manufacturing and logistics industries, is now being utilized in healthcare.  As one example, last year, Texas Health Dallas introduced a Real Time Location System (RTLS) onto the 3 million-square-foot campus. More than 6,500 pieces of equipment are now tagged with radio frequency tracking devices.

The economic impact has been surprising. according to Jazz Patterson, manager of operational excellence at Texas Health Dallas. On a monthly basis, he estimates that the hospital saves more than $35,000 through reduced equipment purchases and rentals. The operational improvements are even more impressive.

Texas Health Dallas has also piloted utilizing the same technology on patients and staff in the Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants. With several mobile viewing tools, such as smartphone applications, staff are able to quickly and efficiently identify the location of other staff and patients.

The results have been outstanding, as an army of trained operations staff are taking information from these tracking tools to determine more efficient ways of providing care. These efficiencies are also having a positive impact on the patient’s perception of care. Perot has achieved remarkable improvements in HCAHPS scores in patient satisfaction, from not only exceptional patient care but through managing and orchestrating patient flow through management tools.

Recognizing that healthcare and hospital services are some of the most complicated and complex systems, Texas Health Dallas has created a department of Operational Excellence that is led by five “black belts” in Lean Six Sigma methodology. To date, more than 450 nurses, technicians, pharmacists, admitting clerks, administrators, physicians, and others have been trained in this methodology. Already, 29 have gone on to achieve green belt status and five have earned their yellow belts.

Texas Health Dallas plans to launch its program (dubbed “Find Me Now”) throughout the entire complex in 2013. Upon admission, a patient will have a radio frequency tag attached to his or her wristband that is tracked throughout the campus. In addition, employee name badges will have the same tracking capability.

Imagine the information that will be available. Bottlenecks and hand-offs will be analyzed and improved. Scheduling and coordinating procedures will be no longer based on personal and staff experience but determined by sophisticated modeling and scientific analysis. Combined with the intuition and experience of clinicians, the results should be exceptional.

The projects this year alone have created more than $3.5 million in annualized savings. The results have been announced at employee forums, and all staff is being invited to participate in a two-day training seminar. These efforts will be supported as every employee takes these improvement tools into their individual work areas.

In an era of unprecedented change and turmoil, healthcare professionals are embracing technology from outside the industry. Whether from the manufacturing and logistics fields, or through lean six sigma analysts, the healthcare industry is preparing for some of the most unprecedented change in the history of healthcare.

—Britt R. Berrett is president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas