Effect of lean process improvement techniques on a university hospital inpatient pharmacy

Hintzen, Barbara L.; Knoer, Scott J.; Van Dyke, Christie J.; Milavitz, Brian S.
November 2009
American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy;11/15/2009, Vol. 66 Issue 22, p2042
Academic Journal
Purpose. The effect of lean process improvement on an inpatient university hospital pharmacy was evaluated. Summary. The University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC), Fairview, implemented lean techniques in its inpatient pharmacy to improve workflow, reduce waste, and achieve substantial cost savings. The sterile products area (SPA) and the inventory area were prospectively identified as locations for improvement due to their potential to realize cost savings. Process-improvement goals for the SPA included the reduction of missing doses, errors, and patient-specific waste by 30%, 50%, and 30%, respectively, and the reallocation of two technician fulltime equivalents (FTEs). Reductions in pharmaceutical inventory and returns due to outdating were also anticipated. Workflow in the SPA was improved through the creation of accountability, standard work, and movement toward one-piece flow. Increasing the number of i.v. batches decreased pharmaceutical waste by 40%. Through SPA environment improvements and enhanced workload sharing, two FTE technicians from the SPA were redistributed within the department. SPA waste reduction yielded an annual saving of $275,500. Quality and safety were also improved, as measured by reductions in missing doses, expired products, and production errors. In the inventory area, visual control was improved through the use of a double-bin system, the number of outdated drugs decreased by 20%, and medication inventory was reduced by $50,000. Conclusion. Lean methodology was successfully implemented in the SPA and inventory area at the UMMC, Fairview, inpatient pharmacy. Benefits of this process included an estimated annual cost saving of $289,256 due to waste reduction, improvements in workflow, and decreased staffing requirements.


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