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Applying the Toyota Production System: Using a Patient Safety Alert System to Reduce Error

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Abstract:

Background: In 2002, Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) adapted the Toyota Production System, also known as lean manufacturing. To translate the techniques of zero defects and stopping the line into health care, the Patient Safety Alert (PSA) system requires any employee who encounters a situation that is likely to harm a patient to make an immediate report and to cease any activity that could cause further harm (stopping the line).

Implementing the PSA System—Stopping the Line: If any VMMC employee's practice or conduct is deemed capable of causing harm to a patient, a PSA can cause that person to be stopped from working until the problem is resolved. A policy statement, senior executive commitment, dedicated resources, a 24-hour hotline, and communication were all key features of implementation.

Results: As of December 2006, 6,112 PSA reports were received: 20% from managers, 8% from physicians, 44% from nurses, and 23% from nonclinical support personnel, for example. The number of reports received per month increased from an average of 3 in 2002 to 285 in 2006. Most reports were processed within 24 hours and were resolved within 2 to 3 weeks.

Discussion: Implementing the PSA system has drastically increased the number of safety concerns that are resolved at VMMC, while drastically reducing the time it takes to resolve them. Transparent discussion and feedback have helped promote staff acceptance and participation.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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