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"Leaning" the Process of Venous Thromboembolism Prophylaxis

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Background: Lean principles have been used at Denver Health Medical Center since 2005 to streamline nonclinical processes. Despite allocation of significant re sources, particularly the expense of low molecular weight heparin (LMWH), to prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism (VTE), the incidence of postoperative VTE was significantly worse than national benchmarks. VTE risk factors were not consistently assessed, and the prescribing of prophylaxis varied widely. Lean was employed to standardize and implement risk assessment and evidence-based VTE prophylaxis for the institution.

Methods: In a rapid improvement event, a multidisciplinary group formulated an evidence-based risk assessment tool and clinical practice guideline for VTE prophylaxis, with plans for hospitalwide implementation and monitoring.

Results: The effects were immediate and improved steadily with feedback to clinicians. Within six months, compliance with the standard approached 100%. One year after implementation, the use of LMWH decreased more than 60% below baseline, and the use of sequential compression devices decreased by nearly 30%. With increased use of unfractionated heparin, the cost savings on VTE prophylaxis exceeded $15,000 per month, for a total of $425,000 since implementation. Moreover, the incidence of VTE decreased markedly during the same period. By reducing VTE rates, a total cost savings of $6.2 million was estimated for the past 28 months.

Conclusions: Applying Lean to the clinical management of VTE prophylaxis improved compliance with standards and saved the hospital a significant amount of money. This was achieved without compromising clinical outcomes. This experience could be replicated at other institutions.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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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.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

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