August 21, 2019 – Today I met with a group that has a unique and important role at Rady Children’s: the finance and industrial engineering team. They support efforts to make Rady Children’s more efficient by focusing on quality, safety, work flow, cost efficiency and satisfaction.

Some of the tempting treats

They certainly were efficient about providing some of the best snacks! I walked into the conference room to find a table filled with sweet treats from one of my favorite bakeries, SusieCakes. As I dug into a key lime pie, the team explained more about what they do.

In a health care setting, industrial engineers focus on how patients flow through the system (such as a patient making an appointment or being released from the hospital) and how to optimize the process by using statistics, diagnosing what could be improved and then developing a process improvement plan to make it happen.

The team came up with a list of 36 different projects they had worked on and assigned them to numbers on a roulette wheel. I got to spin the wheel, and whatever number the ball landed on correlated with the project I got to learn more about. Pretty ingenious!

The roulette wheel of projects

The first was the depression risk screening initiative. Industrial engineer Kendall Sanderson explained that his role is to monitor how the initiative is performing and evaluate whether departments are carrying out screenings effectively. Using a program called Qliksense, he created an interactive dashboard that pulls in data from Epic and organizes it into charts. The tool updates automatically and allows the user to drill down by each department, date screened and even individual patient.

The next spin of the wheel landed on medical safety. Industrial engineer Christian Royer handled this project, which focused on automating safety event reporting. He had to figure out how to combine two safety reporting systems together (crosswalk the data), validate the calculations, determine the criteria to be included and then create an interactive dashboard that would effectively track safety reports month-over-month and year-over-year.

Another spin of the wheel landed on patient transport. Industrial engineer Abbey Tadlock led this project, which sought to make internal transports (moving a patient from one part of the Hospital to another) more efficient. This involved analyzing the average and median minutes of completed transports by month and, drilling down further, by shifts. Her analysis identified several bottlenecks, which were improved by eliminating certain types of transports, automating requests in Epic and refining communication.

The downward trend illustrates impressive work in reducing appointment wait times.

Finally, I learned from the team about their impressive work around reducing patient wait times for specialty appointments. The initial goal of the project was to reduce the wait time for a new patient’s appointment to five days or less. The initiative, which began with 10 specialties and now includes all 20, looked for ways to increase supply and reduce demand in order to catch up and then keep up with appointments. One of the big successes of this initiative was with cardiology clinic access. By optimizing staff and improving access, patient flow and layout, the median third next available appointment (the industry standard for measuring appointment access) went from more than 100 days to fewer than 20, and often the same day if the patient was willing to see any provider.

This team may work quietly in the background, but their accomplishments should be shouted from the rooftops. The improvements they are making have a lasting impact across our organization, and ultimately result in greater patient satisfaction and improved care for kids.