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Top Three Goals for Continued Healthcare Improvement

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Last week I arrived at the Premier Breakthroughs Conference, in Washington DC, energized and ready to learn everything I could about healthcare organizations. This is a vertical I’d been eager to break into as a brand manager, but I had struggled to understand the complex operations within hospitals and healthcare networks. Luckily for me, I left the event having learned a lot about the inner workings of healthcare.

I learned healthcare had interest in achieving a few key goals:

  1. Improve patient outcomes; they’re in healthcare because they want to help people get well.
  2. There is no “new money,” so they need to do more with what they have.
  3. Improve process efficiency.

Throughout the week I saw some pretty awesome examples of how other suppliers were helping Premier members to work toward these objectives. (Note: I said work towards, not accomplish. These groups, also like Dickson, operate under a continuous improvement mindset.) Every case seemed to encompass at least two of the three goals described above.

KARL STORZ was honored during the conference’s Innovation Celebration for their Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC) with Cysview®. Their imaging system helps surgeons to identify and diagnose bladder cancer by providing greater contrast between the tumors and the normal cells.

A bowl full of flat glass pebbles to represent normal cells with clear marbles mixed in that represent difficult to see tumors.

KARL STORZ demonstrated their capabilities with a bowl full of flat glass pebbles to represent normal cells. Mixed in were a few clear marbles that represented the tumors. Looking at the image to the right, you can see how difficult it could be for a surgeon to identify the cancer using normal lighting. I was asked how many “tumors” I could identify. I counted 5 without much confidence; surely I was counting pieces that weren’t the round marbles and I was probably missing some, too.

Next, she turned on their Blue Light and suddenly I was able to easily identify the round marbles. As you can see in the image below, their technology will allow surgeons to provide an accurate diagnosis for patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. During surgery, they will be able to find and remove the cancer and leave the normal cells intact.

In a person’s bladder, the light impacts the contrast in a different, but just as effective, way. Instead of everything looking pink, the tumor will appear pink while the normal cells appear blue.

Without a doubt, this will allow surgical teams to provide better patient outcomes.

KARL STORZ Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC) with Cysview® turned on to highlight marbles mixed in with a group of glass stones.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center shared a process improvement strategy they implemented during one of the six Education Sessions in the Supply Chain Operations track at the show. UT Medical Center was struggling to have the right supplies on hand during surgery.

Like many hospitals UT Medical Center used Physician Preference Cards to identify the equipment and supplies needed during the procedure. Staff members would assemble the supplies on surgical trays based on the PPCs and send them to the OR at the appropriate time.

The problem was that these cards were not always kept up-to date. They were hunch-driven, not history driven. When they were updated, it was possible they’d be updated based on a single event; not aggregate data. As a result, about 50% of the supplies would be returned unused to the supply room. Even more frustrating, they didn’t always have the supplies they needed. When this happened, there would be a disruption as the Perioperative Nurse would leave the OR to gather the necessary supplies, checking expiration dates.

Once implementing the Continuum OR system, UT Medical was able to track supply usage by placing an RFID tag on each supply package. As product gets used, the nurse discards packaging into a trash receptacle that has an integrated RFID reader. The screen above the receptacle will notify them if the product is expired or incompatible with the patient or procedure type.

Over time, these new methods allow the medical center to make decisions based on actual usage data to continuously update the PPCs, allowing the trays to be filled with items that have actually been required during similar procedures in the past. The process is reducing product waste and surgical times.

I found myself inspired by every person and organization I got to know to at the Premier Breakthroughs conference. Everyone embraced collaboration between the suppliers, GPOs and healthcare organizations to improve an industry that touches us all. As a company rooted in collaboration, innovation, and ensuring that no points in the process are left to chance, I am eager to contribute to these efforts.

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