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OM in the News: Pink Slime and Lean Hospitals

May 18, 2012

The public is continually subjected to health-related scares, from food packaging to water bottles that contain BPA, a chemical that has been linked to cancer. The media also highlights food additives that are not really harmful, but just sound unappetizing, such as “pink slime” in ground beef and the use of dried insects to color beverages at Starbucks. Yet, according to The Reporter (May 10, 2012), our nation’s hospitals are the one place where people actually have the most reasons to be scared and to demand change.

Studies estimate that 100,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors and another 100,000 die as the result of hospital-acquired infections. This health-care safety problem can be tackled with the OM tools of lean and TQM. We see this in one of our text’s most popular video case studies, “The Culture of Quality at Arnold Palmer Hospital”– worth showing when teaching Chapter 6.

The good news is that a growing number of hospitals are dramatically reducing different types of preventable errors, including patient falls, bedsores, wrong-site surgeries and medication mistakes, using the principles of lean (Chapter 16).  Dr. Richard Shannon helped his Pittsburgh hospital achieve, in just 90 days, a 95 percent reduction in deaths caused by central-line-associated blood-stream infections–through improved teamwork and making sure the correct supplies are always readily available.  Because these improvements do not rely on expensive technology or years of specialized training, they can be replicated in any hospital.

A 2010 survey, however, shows the bad news–that most hospitals are not devoting time or resources to prevent central-line infections, which claim 30,000 lives annually. And these hospital-acquired infections cost the U.S. about $30 billion a year in unnecessary medical expenses.

Discussion questions:

1. What  OM tools in Chapter 6 can be applied to help prevent infections in hospitals?

2. After watching the video, what does Arnold Palmer Hospital do to maintain quality?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 10, 2012 4:00 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing this interesting article. I appreciate it very much! Looking forward to other similar posts.

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