Adventist Health: Pioneering a New Era of Process Improvement

By Jeremy Brown | Continuous Improvement
September 5, 2017

In May of this year, we had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Jill Waters, Lean Six Sigma Coordinator at Adventist Health, which is a not-for-profit healthcare organization comprised of over 20 hospitals and over 30 clinics in the U.S.

Jill shared a ton of invaluable process improvement and innovation insights she has learned during her time at Adventist.

In this article, we highlight five key takeaways.

Key takeaways from Adventist Health’s Jill Waters

1. There’s power in simple observation.

Jill told a story about how she spotted a barrier to efficiency for an Adventist Health hospital when she first joined the company.

The company was transitioning from manual to electronic medical records, which meant every hospital had to make the change. Inevitably this brought about a learning curve that, if not addressed, has the ability to slow down progress.

One hospital in particular, where Jill was temporarily placed, experienced slowdown in progress. They were 3 months behind due to performing unnecessary work.

In two-days, Jill was able to spot the wasteful steps by simply observing what the department was doing. She then trained the staff on the correct way to use the elcontronci medial record equipment fix, which got the hospital back up to speed.

This is an example of how the power of simple observation can lead to significant change, which is the very essence of process improvement. All it takes is one individual to spot a better way of doing something to be more efficient and productive.

2. Small incremental improvements can lead to huge transformations.

Incremental improvements are significantly easier to implement than large, disruptive transformation.

Having said that, there should be a balance between ideating with employees to surface incremental improvements (short-term wins) and shooting for large systemic transformation (long-term wins).

3. Empower the directors and managers of departments.

When it comes to running an ideation program where process improvement is a focal point, the program manager doesn’t need to be the person that knows it all. Instead, it’s his or her responsibility to give power to department directors and managers. After all, they’re the ones who know where inefficiencies and problem areas lie since they experience them on a day-to-day basis.

Empower directors and managers by giving them a simple way to share the problems their team experiences day-to-day and potential solutions to them.

4. For process improvement to work effectively, it starts at the top.

Jill told a story about how the CEO of Adventist Health’s Central Valley Region pushed hard for employees at the executive and director levels to learn the various process improvement methodologies in order to find new ways of improving existing processes as well as opportunities to grow.

This is an important point. Executives, more specifically CEOs, have to go all in on the initiatives that guide the company’s mission, vision, and strategy. whether it’s product or education. CEOs have to lead by example.

5. Shoving hundreds of people in a room to brainstorm is not practical or scalable.

When you have 10 people that make up a department, brainstorming in a room is easy. But when you have hundreds maybe thousands of employees, brainstorming isn’t as straightforward. This is one reason why many companies turn to Spigit’s idea management software. They need an easy way to brainstorm and collaborate with thousands of employees who are distributed around the world.

Final thoughts

Adventist Health is pioneering a new era of process improvement through company-wide ideation to great success.

To hear more about Adventist Health’s ideation program and process improvement efforts, I highly recommend you watch this on-demand webinar.

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