By Dr. Gary S. Kaplan, Chair and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle, Washington
In a column (“Lean value in health care limited,” July 17), Mark Lemstra incorrectly stated that the health system I have the privilege of leading, Virginia Mason in Seattle, is now focusing its application of lean management on administrative tasks that don’t affect patient care. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Everything we do, using the tools of the Virginia Mason Production System (VMPS), is designed to further improve care quality and patient safety.
At one of our organization’s weekly report-out sessions earlier this month, we heard the results of an improvement project focused on spine care and of Rapid Process Improvement Workshops that focused on hip fractures and care for overweight and obese patients. All these involved doctors, nurses and other team members – and, of course, patients. Improving our processes is the goal of VMPS. To suggest our work is “focusing on administrative tasks in the hospital, and not what happens between doctors or nurses and their patients” is extremely misleading and entirely misinterprets my comments.
Using lean methods and other VMPS resources is at the foundation of our commitment to continuous improvement. We are ensuring our providers deliver evidence-based medicine and our patients receive the most appropriate and safest care possible.
There are hundreds of examples of how we’ve used VMPS to improve care delivery. These include implementing standards for nursing and multidisciplinary rounds in the hospital and for bedside handoffs; for responding to codes; for identifying and caring for patients at risk for sepsis; for preventing falls and pressure ulcers; for preventing surgical errors; and for implementing mistake-proofing measures, such as our health-maintenance module that helps patients complete their routine screenings and vaccinations. Every clinical area within Virginia Mason uses lean methods and other VMPS resources to further improve how doctors, nurses, medical assistants, technologists and others provide clinical care.
I am proud of our organization’s work and international reputation for quality, safety and innovation. In April, Virginia Mason received an ‘A’ for patient safety from The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization representing employers and other large purchasers of health care that is driving improvements in quality, safety, transparency and affordability. Also in April, Virginia Mason received the Outstanding Patient Experience Award for the second consecutive year from Healthgrades, placing us among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the United States for patient experience. Healthgrades has also named Virginia Mason one of America’s 100 best hospitals, a designation that puts us among the top 2 percent of hospitals in the nation this year. In 2013, Leapfrog named Virginia Mason one of the top hospitals in America for quality and safety for the eighth straight year. In December 2010, Virginia Mason was designated a Top Hospital of the Decade by Leapfrog for our innovations and achievements in quality and safety. Since 2008, more than 5,000 people – mostly in health care – from 20 nations have attended seminars in the Virginia Mason Production System offered by the Virginia Mason Institute in Seattle.
We don’t do our work for ratings, which vary depending on the evaluation methodology the rating organization chooses to use. Our work is focused on creating, for every patient, a perfect experience in an environment where team members are engaged and able to do their best work.
This piece is published with the permission of Dr. Gary Kaplan / Virginia Mason. It also appeared in The StarPhoenix.