The New York State Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH) has long employed performance improvement tools to comply with hospital accreditation standards. In 2010, the OMH Executive Deputy Commissioner noticed an alternative being deployed on the western end of the state: Lean Six Sigma (LSS). The results from its usage in Erie County government, fueled by TCIE’s work in providing education and assistance, impressed her. Since then, NYSOMH has used the data-driven methodology to increase efficiency in its psychiatric centers and mental health programs that serve more than 730,000 people annually. A TCIE data expert was deployed to lead project coordination, provide consultation and statistical analysis, and mentor candidates enrolled in web-based Green Belt and Black Belt training. About 40 employees across the organization – from the Albany-based central office to all 23 psychiatric centers – have been or are in the process of being certified by the University at Buffalo and are expected to complete at least one process improvement project per year. These projects are supported by two NYSOMH employees, serving in newly created positions, who are responsible for managing improvement efforts and escalating their reach. The following project is one example of how the LSS methodology has been used in a NYSOMH-operated hospital to create efficiencies and actualize savings.
Dr. Rebecca Leland, director of the Psychology Department and ASL/Deaf Services Specialist at Rockland Psychiatric Center (RPC) in Orangeburg, aimed to cut spending on American Sign Language (ASL) freelance interpreter services while maintaining the quality of care for the deaf patients who require it. The $2.5 million spent to deliver services in 2013 was influenced by a lack of centralized service coordination and freelance norms. Professionals seasoned in interpreting for mentally ill people command large blocks of time and often decline one- or two-hour commitments. This scenario has resulted in scheduling conflicts and RPC paying for ASL interpreters who are utilized, on average, for only 35 percent of their scheduled time. Leland says the comprehensive approach of LSS enabled a major review of a complex system “that would have melted to chaos without that structure.”