A Day at Virginia Mason Medical Center Dr. Gary Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Medical Center, speaks with iSixSigma reporter Kate Burrows. Photos by Valerie Jardin
Director of General Internal Medicine Brad Barkin stands in a Virginia Mason conference room, pointing out the patient satisfaction data and financial information on display for all to see. As a result of the Virginia Mason Production System’s efficiencies, the organization was able to remove several exam rooms in order to build this conference room. “ The existence of this conference space in itself is a huge success, because we are able to use fewer exam rooms while seeing the same number of patients,” Barkin said. “Exam rooms cost time and money, so our ability to operate fewer rooms gives us the chance to maintain space for valuable investments like this conference room.”
Dr. Craig Blackmore, a member of Virginia Mason’s radiology department, seeks to reduce unnecessary imaging – an expensive problem in healthcare that can cost the patient, provider and insurance company a great deal of money. When patients see a physician for lower back pain, many doctors immediately call for an MRI. However, Blackmore said, this is often an unnecessary expense that can be eliminated if certain steps are taken. “ Physicians at Virginia Mason must fill out an electronic form and, if the symptoms aren’t right to call for an MRI, the system will not let the request go through,” he said. “[The physicians] can always make phone calls for exceptions, but often, these imaging tests are unnecessary.”
Deb Heinricher, RN, MN, is director of acute care services in the gastroenterology medical/surgical unit at Virginia Mason. In her unit, physicians and nurses rely less on verbal communication, and use visual cues, such as stoplights and colored stars, to alert care providers of the status of each patient. “ These signals are communication tools that reduce the reliance on talking to the right person at the right time about the needs of a patient,” she said. “Using visible signals like these yellow stars, [which] indicate a fall risk, greatly reduces the potential for error, creating a safer environment.”
Helen Koppe, right, receives treatment at Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute at Virginia Mason. These semi-private rooms feature green leather recliner chairs and many overlook the Seattle skyline. Koppe said the comfortable environment at Virginia Mason creates a positive experience. “ We have been very impressed by the care I’ve received, and our access to labs and history is new to us,” she said. “It’s amazing the camaraderie we’ve seen with the caregivers, and it’s been a very personal and comforting experience.”
Dr. Gary Kaplan talks to a patient receiving treatment at the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute, asking for his thoughts on the design of the facility. “ Many hospitals would struggle in deciding if patients should get the views of the city, or doctors,” Kaplan remarked. “For us, it was no question.” With bright, natural light and views overlooking the city, the patient said, “if I have to spend a day at a hospital, this is the way to do it.”
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