From a Patient Safety Tragedy to Lean & Baldrige Success in a Small Texas Hospital

As Patient Safety Awareness Week continues, thanks to all of you who shared this PBS News Hour story with me via email or Twitter. If you ever see something you think might be of interest, please let me know.

On March 9, this story aired on PBS: After tragic mistake, rural hospital transforms into model of success.

Tragedy and Death

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 4.31.13 PMThe piece starts with a tragic story, where Hill County Memorial, in Fredericksburg, Texas (west of Austin), misdiagnosed a 13-year old who had suffered a stroke. The “inattentive and callous” emergency physician didn’t listen to the boy’s mother about something not being right with Quinn Kott (pictured, at left).

Rather than just blaming an individual, it makes me wonder about the circumstances… was the ED overwhelmed with patients and, if so, was that something that could have been solved with Lean and process improvement strategies? How could we look at this in a way other than just blaming the individual? Was it a bad apple or a bad system? It’s usually not a problem with “bad apples” in healthcare…

Sherul Kott, Quinn’s mother, said in the story:

“I met the doctor coming down the hall, and I said, ‘Something is wrong with Quinn.’ And he shushed me,” Sherul Kott recalled. “And I said, ‘No, don’t you tell me to shush. You’re the doctor. I’m the mom. There’s something wrong with my son and I need to know what’s wrong with my son, and we are not taking him home.'”

This episode reminds me of Sorrel King, who said physicians didn’t listen to her… which contributed to the death of her daughter, Josie (listen to my podcast with Sorrel).

“It wasn’t until the next morning that a pediatrician finally examined Quinn. He was rushed to a hospital in San Antonio, about 70 miles south, and died soon after. He had suffered a massive stroke.”

This incident was a wake up call for the hospital. Dr. Michael Williams, CEO at the time said:

“We had a clear opportunity to either do what most hospitals do and what we had done previously, which was get our attorneys involved, be prepared for a lawsuit,” Williams said. “Or we could take a different approach and work directly, reach out to the family and ask them to partner with us in really transforming the hospital.”

The hospital needed transformation, as they were:

  • Losing money each year
  • Patient satisfaction was “very low”
  • Employee satisfaction was “very low”
  • And people were “leaving the community to get their care elsewhere”

Listen to Mark read this post (subscribe to the series):

 

On the topic of parents questioning things or parents catching mistakes, check out this recent story: “Mom and dad often catch hospital errors doctors missed.”

“Roughly one in ten parents spotted mistakes that physicians did not, according to the study of safety incidents observed on two pediatrics units at a hospital in Boston… For the subset of cases that were medical mistakes, the reviewers found 30 percent of the incidents caused harm and were preventable… Preventable errors described by parents included delays detecting a foreign body left behind after a procedure, recognition and treatment of urinary retention, and receipt of pain medication.”

That’s one reason why the Batz Patient Safety Foundation also has a version of their Batz Guide for pediatric care (but I can’t find it on their website). With all of these errors, children and adults alike need an advocate looking out for them and checking for errors.

Lean and Toyota

The Fredericksburg hospital hired a former Toyota employee, Jeff Darnaby to “help bring the car company’s revered assembly line principles to Hill Country Memorial.”

Reading that quote, I have to comment that Lean and TPS isn’t about “assembly line principles.” It’s about:

  • Management principles
  • Problem solving principles
  • Employee engagement methods

It’s not just about assembly lines and Lean isn’t about turning the hospital into an assembly line.

As Darnaby says:

“The Toyota production system basically allows you to identify waste, and remove that waste from your processes,” Darnaby said. “Anything that doesn’t add value to the customer, to the process, is considered waste.”

The hospital has also incorporated other outside ideas from Southwest Airlines and Ritz Carlton hotels.

Here is the video:

In the story, you can see some glimpses of the Lean / Toyota methodology, as I had shared on Twitter:

I’m surprised that “Finance & Growth” was listed first. Usually, Toyota and Lean organizations list cost or finance last, with safety and quality first… since cost is the end result of improving safety and quality.

Hill County Memorial was won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award:

There are many problems in healthcare and far too much harm to patients… but I congratulate Hill County Memorial and wish them the best in the rest of their “Lean journey.”


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Now Available – The updated, expanded, and revised 3rd Edition of Mark Graban’s Shingo Research Award-Winning Book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. You can buy the book today, including signed copies from the author.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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