UB Center Helps Hospital Achieve Major Savings, Transform Culture

Project with Pennsylvania hospital wins national award

Release Date: February 14, 2008 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A continuous improvement program developed at a Pennsylvania hospital in partnership with The Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE) in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has already saved the hospital $500,000 and earned the UB center the 2007 Award of Excellence in Workforce Development from the University Economic Development Association.

Benefits documented so far by Saint Vincent Health Center in Erie, Pa., northwestern Pennsylvania's largest health care network, affect a broad range of operations at the hospital, from speedier CT scans for stroke patients, to faster turnaround of radiology reports, to quicker meal delivery.

"We never would have gone as far as we have without UB's assistance," said Steve Osborn, vice president for quality compliance at Saint Vincent Health Center. "It's pretty remarkable: In two years, we went from having no systematic Lean Six Sigma program to having implemented 50 projects, in which we have either reached our goal or surpassed the halfway mark. Our organization is reaping financial benefits and our customers also feel it."

Faced with the spiraling cost of health care, the management team at Saint Vincent Health Center decided to partner with UB's TCIE in 2005 to attack process inefficiencies and better control costs.

"Saint Vincent Health Center wanted to partner with us because of the strong credentials of our Lean Six Sigma consultants and the access we could provide to UB engineering faculty who had expertise in optimizing health-care operations," said Nicholas Randell, TCIE's administrative director.

Pioneered by Motorola and General Electric and aimed at virtually eliminating defects from processes involved in manufacturing and service organizations, the Six Sigma methodology is one of the most popular quality programs being followed in the corporate workplace today.

The program that TCIE implemented at Saint Vincent consisted of various initiatives, including Six Sigma training for more than 100 managers and staff, with extensive on-site support and mentoring from TCIE trainers throughout the 20-month project.

It also featured the development of simulations of round-the-clock Emergency Department functions by a faculty/student team from UB's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The simulations can function as a planning tool for hospital administrators, who can adjust them to reflect various staffing and operational scenarios and to help identify potential areas of improvement.

The same UB team conducted a similar analysis of St. Vincent's operating room facilities, including simulation of patient flow through pre-surgical holding areas, operating suites and post-anesthesia care units.

Saint Vincent Health Center estimates that overall, the UB program helped it achieve savings to date of approximately $540,000 in areas that include the catheter lab, billing office, central store inventory, radiology department, meal-delivery service and the CT scanning and testing lab.

Six Sigma training is one of several methodologies used by TCIE, which provides a dynamic link between UB's technical resources and the region's business community, striving to achieve world-class results for its business partners by applying university and external resources to improve their products, processes, and employee skills.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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