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Virginia Mason launches quality improvement blog


Virginia Mason Medical Center has launched a blog that will focus on quality improvement processes aimed at improving patient safety and cutting costs.

The Seattle hospital established a national reputation for quality improvement by adapting “lean” manufacturing techniques to medicine.

These techniques were first developed by the Japanese car maker Toyota and have been credited for making Toyotas some of the most reliable cars made.

The Toyota approach seeks to eliminate all waste in its production system and to “mistake-proof” its processes, cutting costs and reducing errors.

Virginia Mason started its adaptation of the Toyota approach, developing an approach the hospital calls the Virginia Mason Production System, 12 years ago.

In large part as result of that effort, Virginia Mason was named “Top Hospital of the Decade” by The Leapfrog Group, a national organization of insurers, employers, and other groups dedicated to improving health-care quality.


The new blog will be written by  Charles Kenney. Kenney is a former Boston Globe reporter who has written three books on  improving quality in health care, including a book about the Virginia Mason initiative: Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center’s Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience.

Kenney says he hopes the blog will provide a forum for anyone who is interested in making health care safer, more efficient and cost-effective.

The site’s first blog post features Kim Pittenger, MD, a family physician at Virginia Mason Kirkland, who discusses on how primary care doctors can organize their work “in flow” to do a better job taking care of more patients in less time, and get home for dinner with no open charts or left over paperwork.

Kenney writes:

Dr. Pittenger and his VM colleagues “have not only reduced the blizzard of paper, email and phone messages, they have created a system that enables more doctors to go home by 6 o’clock more often with no open charts and no left over paper work.

“How have they accomplished this seeming miracle? In a word, flow. They have created flow stations – and a flow production system – where a doctor works in close partnership with a medical assistant who breaks down the indirect care paper, phone calls and email into small lots that can be handled throughout the course of the day rather than in a batch at the end of the day.”

“We will have a lot of these straightforward, things-I-can-do-right-now kinds of posts, and we want our readers to comment, add links, and contribute their knowledge,” says Kenney. “And we’ll post thoughts on books, conferences and articles – anything we think can be helpful to clinicians and administrators working to improve the quality and efficiency of care delivery.’’

To learn more:


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