Spring Is in the Air: Maura Davies, Saskatoon Health Region

SHR feature

Finally, after a very long winter, spring has arrived and with it a welcome sense of renewal and new beginnings: new crops, blossoming trees, proud graduates and for me, a darling new granddaughter.

For Saskatoon Health Region, spring also marks the beginning of a new fiscal year and a new cycle of implementing the strategic priorities of our Region:


These are ambitious goals which will require the collective efforts of many people throughout the Region.

To help meet these goals we will continue to apply lean thinking, tools and methods.

Over the past weeks there has been much public debate about the adoption of lean in health care and the investment being made (approximately 0.5 per cent of the provincial health budget) to learn and apply lean to achieve better health, better care, better value and better teams across Saskatchewan.

I need to do a much better job of profiling and celebrating how we use lean methods to improve our care in Saskatoon Health Region

A recent rapid process improvement workshop (RPIW) in our pediatric cardiology clinic provides a good example. Patients are referred to our Health Region from across the province. The wait time to see a pediatric cardiologist can be as long as 14 months, although more urgent cases are seen sooner. The RPIW team, which included a patient advisor, Dr. Kakedekar and clinic staff, found that much of the two hours and 19 minute average clinic visit involved patient and staff waiting and family members and children walking and waiting to receive an ECG in another location. By bringing the ECG service to the clinic and improving other clinic processes, the length of the clinic visit was cut in half. Feedback from family members has been overwhelmingly positive.

Another RPIW focused on reducing the amount of time from when RUH orthopedic patients were identified as ready for transfer to the time they were transferred to SCH for rehabilitation and recovery from non-elective surgery. The lean team, which included a patient advisor and staff from the RUH and SCH orthopedic units, reduced this time by 89 per cent, resulting in improved patient access to more appropriate care in a more appropriate setting. In addition, the changes will free up an estimated two beds per day for patients in the RUH emergency department who require admission to the orthopedic unit.

The lean team, which included a patient advisor and staff from the RUH and SCH orthopedic units, reduced this time by 89 per cent, resulting in improved patient access to more appropriate care in a more appropriate setting.

An important part of our improvement work is “mistake proofing” processes that have or could have potential to harm patients, clients and residents. Recently three teams reported their results, including:

  • elimination of defects in registration of personal information for patients at the RUH main registration. The new process includes a self-check by the patient to ensure personal information is correct. This improvement will assist us in ensuring the right care is provided to the right patient for the 500 patients a day registered in RUH main registration.
  • elimination of defects in the 20 step process to change an infant’s name in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Data revealed that some NICU babies had as many as 5 name changes during their stay in NICU. Before the improvement, the defect rate was six per cent. The new process eliminates name changes in NICU (with few exceptions), ensuring safer care, and saving the unit aide 393 hours of work. The savings in armbands and labels is estimated at $10,000 per year.
  • 86 per cent elimination of incorrectly labeled slides in anatomic pathology at SCH. The lab environment is very complex, with approximately 8,000 slides produced daily. Standardizing the formatting of slide labels, the labeling process, dealing with mislabeled slides, and making errors visible will support safer, more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Just like spring, our lean management system provides us with an opportunity to refresh our processes. One of the foundations of the system is daily improvements made by employees and physicians as part of their daily work.

Maura Davies
President and CEO
Saskatoon Health Region

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