Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Process improvement opportunities

First of all, thank you to everyone that took time to read the blogs from ASQs World Conference on Quality and Improvement. Aimee Siegler, Dennis Arter and I shared out varied experience during out week long stay in Houston, TX. If you would like to read our posts, see the link in my posting below.

Okay, now on to Process Improvement opportunities. Throughout my life, I've seen varying opportunities to improve the processes of different businesses. A recent occurrence during a stay at an NYC hospital is the subject of this discussion...

I was admitted to the hospital on a Friday morning in early spring to repair a herniated disk in my neck. The surgery went well. A awoke in the recovery room and was soon being transported up to a very nice, private room. There were a total of 3 other patients on the floor so you would think that the care would have been exemplary. Well, it was not. Several things occurred that warrent discussion.
  1. When I was brought to the room the nurse asked if I'd need the roll-away bed that evening. In my hazy state I assumed my wife would be heading home to be with the kids. I was wrong. At 10 pm when she thought about going home we noticed that it was raining heavily so we decided it would be best if she stayed the night. It took my nurse over 2 hours to find a bed for Sharon as all the roll-aways were now occupied. (Remember, there were only 3 other people on the floor.)
  2. Very early on Saturday morning I requested alcohol pads from my nurse as I needed to remove stick on probes used for heart monitoring during the surgery. For those that do not know me, I am quite hairy under my shirt. Removing the contact pads without the alcohol pads was quite painful. I made the request no less than 5 times without results. Finally at about 6:30 am I walked down to the nurses station to ask again. What I found there was my nurse with coat on and bag on shoulder ready to leave for home. At that point she said, 'oh yeah, let me get those pads'. By that point I had pulled off the probes plus about 3 pounds of hair and skin.
  3. Before leaving the floor I inquired at the nurses station about validating for the mandatory valet parking. I was told to go to the cashier near the main entrance. So, with bag in hand (actually in Sharon's hand) we headed to the lobby and the cashier...it was 7:30 am on Saturday morning. What we found was a sign indicating that the cashier opened at 9 am. I went to the valet and was told that they could not validate so I waited in the lobby while Sharon went out to 1st Ave (New York City) to get coffee for herself and a muffin for me. Finally, at 9 am the cashier arrived. She validated my parking ticket and promptly charged me $25 explaining that the validation is only for 24 hours and we had arrived at 6 am the day before so we needed to pay for the additional 3 hours ($25 for 3 hours...highway robbery!!!!). I explained the problem with their process but she would hear nothing of it and suggested I contact Customer Service. Which I did.

So, as stated above, I spoke to customer service once I was feeling a bit better. I offered my services as a Quality Consultant to guide them in resolving their process issues. All I was offered was a refund of the $25 which I took. I have yet to hear from the hospital on my offer to help them resolve internal issues that directly affect their customers. I sense the reason for their avoidance of my offer is that they do not preceive that the patient is a customer. After all, how many patients of a hospital really pay their own bills. The bend over backwards to resolve issues for the insurance companies but those of use directly affected (on an individual basis) by their defective processes are ignored.

Could these and similar issues be resolved with simple process improvements. I say yes...what do you, my faithful readers have to say?