North Valley Hospital buys into Lean Six Sigma program

NVH looks at ways to eliminate waste

TONASKET – North Valley Hospital’s Board of Commissioners voted to buy into Lean Six Sigma, a program that seeks to reduce waste and improve efficiency in businesses.

“Lean Six is a crucial part in the success of any hospital; reimbursement is getting less and less. We need to look at ways to minimize waste,” said

NVH CEO Mike Zwicker, as he asked the board to “move forward with a commitment in change in culture.”

Ancillary Services Director Noreen Olma said a recent tour of Kittitas Valley Healthcare in Ellensburg, where Lean Six is implemented, was “really eye opening and inspiring in how they have been able to be successful in moving forward with all the changes in healthcare.”

“We move a lot of paper and a lot of bodies; this gives us an opportunity to give six people in a train-the-trainer model training done by people with a high level of knowledge and expertise,” said Olma.

Implementation of the program comes at a cost of $40,225.

“Forty thousand dollars is a lot of money,” said Commissioner Clarice Nelson. “What other than training the trainer type of things do we get? Will they be involved in actually pointing out things?”

Olma said mentoring was included in the package. “We learned a lot from them in one day,” said Olma. “Having that eye; that expertise to guide us is very beneficial.”

Nelson asked for some specific examples of how KVHC has benefitted from the program.

Zwicker responded that while dollar amounts from KVHC were not shared, “it’s teaching us a process where you look at a process and not use generalities, but it gives us a process with hard dollar savings. There are so many ways to add up hard dollar savings; not just clinically but in administrative, housekeeping and all areas.”

Lean Six includes a range of certification up to black belt. Zwicker said that he achieved yellow belt status in the hospital where he worked before coming to NVH. “It was one of the most beneficial trainings I’ve had in my career. We look at how processes are functioning or not functioning, and we put together a value stream. When we brought this process over to Wheatland, we were able to turn things around in a positive way,” said Zwicker. “I am asking for a vetted commitment from senior leadership; from the top down. Without buy-in from staff members, it won’t work.”

“In my opinion I think it can be the most important decision this board has made,” said Commissioner Adam Tibbs. “If it is breathed and lived by, it can completely change an organization from top to bottom. I endorse it.”

Nelson asked where the hospital stands with finances, and Chief Financial Officer Helen Verhasselt said that while cash was currently coming in slowly, Director of Patient Financial Services Jana Symonds was “developing plans to get the private pay working.”

“Significant dollars will be coming in shortly,” said Verhasselt. “It’s starting to come in. We’ve been putting in long hours in the billing office to get things to come through.”

The motion to approve implementation of Lean Six Sigma was made by Tibbs and seconded by Commissioner Herb Wandler, with none opposed.

In other hospital news, the North Valley Community Health Association is hosting a Wine and Cheese Gala Saturday, March 19 at Esther Briques Winery from 7-9 p.m. featuring a silent auction with proceeds going to Obstetrics Department and North Valley Extended Care. Dixie Brown said the goal was to purchase state of the art bassinets to meet requirements of the Baby-Friendly Hospital program and Welch-Allyn automated Vital Signs Monitors for Extended Care. To donate items for the silent auction, contact Brown at 509-486-4324.