Observational study using the tools of lean six sigma to improve the efficiency of the resident rounding process

J Grad Med Educ. 2011 Jun;3(2):144-50. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-10-00116.1.


Background: Recent focus on resident work hours has challenged residency programs to modify their curricula to meet established duty hour restrictions and fulfill their mission to develop the next generation of clinicians. Simultaneously, health care systems strive to deliver efficient, high-quality care to patients and families. The primary goal of this observational study was to use a data-driven approach to eliminate examples of waste and variation identified in resident rounding using Lean Six Sigma methodology. A secondary goal was to improve the efficiency of the rounding process, as measured by the reduction in nonvalue-added time.

Methods: We used the "DMAIC" methodology: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. Pediatric and family medicine residents rotating on the pediatric hospitalist team participated in the observation phase. Residents, nurses, hospitalists, and parents of patients completed surveys to gauge their attitudes toward rounds. The Mann-Whitney test was used to test for differences in the median times measured during the preimprovement and postimprovement phases, and the Student t test was used for comparison of survey data.

Results and discussion: Collaborative, family-centered rounding with elimination of the "prerounding" process, as well as standard work instructions and pacing the process to meet customer demand (takt time), were implemented. Nonvalue-added time per patient was reduced by 64% (P = .005). Survey data suggested that team members preferred the collaborative, family-centered approach to the traditional model of rounding.

Conclusions: Lean Six Sigma provides tools, a philosophy, and a structured, data-driven approach to address a problem. In our case this facilitated an effort to adhere to duty hour restrictions while promoting education and quality care. Such approaches will become increasingly useful as health care delivery and education continue to transform.