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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Small Animal Hospital Pursues Process Improvements

November 17th, 2015

Six-SigmaWhat do General Electric and a veterinary hospital have in common? Both employ groups of people with special skills who work together as a team on complex projects.

What can the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) learn from GE and other industries? Process improvement.

In the 1980s many U.S. industries adopted new process improvements using a set of techniques and tools called Six Sigma, which seeks to identify and remove the causes of inefficiencies and defects using empirical methods.

Last week, the VTH small animal hospital, under the direction of Dr. Helio deMorais, did something out of the norm. They began a Six Sigma project with the help of the OSU College of Engineering. “The VTH is always seeking to improve quality and outcomes, employing new technologies and research to provide top-notch care,” says deMorais.

Now, experts from the school of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering are stationed around the hospital observing day-to-day operations and gathering data on everything from reception to surgery. They will then use that data to analyze processes, identify inefficiencies, and make recommendations.

In the past decade, several human hospitals have adapted the Six Sigma techniques to a medical setting with good results. A case in point is the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. In 2012, they hired engineers to streamline operating room and post-anesthesia time, reduce employee turnover, and improve office efficiency. The results of the project were reported at the 2014 annual meeting of the Central Surgical Association. Two examples:

  • The average number of days from the client’s initial contact to their first appointment dropped from fourteen to eight.
  • The average wait time from the first consultation to surgery fell from 39.9 to 33.9 days.

“This is a long-term project that should result in better efficiency in the VTH,” says Dean Susan J. Tornquist.

When the small animal hospital study is completed, a Six Sigma study will be initiated in the large animal hospital.

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