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Applying Toyota Production System Principles to a Psychiatric Hospital: Making Transfers Safer and More Timely

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Background: Health care organizations have increasingly embraced industrial methods, such as the Toyota Production System (TPS), to improve quality, safety, timeliness, and efficiency. However, the use of such methods in psychiatric hospitals has been limited.

Methods: A psychiatric hospital applied TPS principles to patient transfers to the outpatient medication management clinics (MMCs) from all other inpatient and outpatient services within the hospital's system. Sources of error and delay were identified, and a new process was designed to improve timely access (measured by elapsed time from request for transfer to scheduling of an appointment and to the actual visit) and patient safety by decreasing communication errors (measured by number of failed transfers). Complexity was substantially reduced, with one streamlined pathway replacing five distinct and more complicated pathways. To assess sustainability, the postintervention period was divided into Period 1 (first 12 months) and Period 2 (next 24 months).

Results: Time required to process the transfer and schedule the first appointment was reduced by 74.1% in Period 1 (p < .001) and by an additional 52.7% in Period 2 (p < .0001) for an overall reduction of 87% (p < .0001). Similarly, time to the actual appointment was reduced 31.2% in Period 1 (p < .0001), but was stable in Period 2 (p = .48). The number of transfers per month successfully processed and scheduled increased 95% in the postintervention period compared with the pre-implementation period (p = .015). Finally, data for failed transfers were only available for the postintervention period, and the rate decreased 89% in Period 2 compared with Period 1 (p = .017).

Discussion: The application of TPS principles enhanced access and safety through marked and sustained improvements in the transfer process's timeliness and reliability. Almost all transfer processes have now been standardized.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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  • 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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