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Idea Boards Spark Simple, Cost-Effective Solutions to Common Problems

At UMass Memorial Health Care, a simple tool is helping hospital staff improve patient care and cut costs. The idea board has led to the implementation of more than 2,000 process improvements across the system’s five hospitals.

An idea board is a component of the lean management principles developed by Toyota. It starts with a problem or question to be addressed. Examples from UMass Memorial range from expediting the patient discharge process to curing waiting room boredom.

Employees list potential solutions to the problem on a Post-It note and attach it to poster board. As staff work on ideas, the Post-It note moves across the board to indicate that it is in progress or complete. Staff teams at UMass hospitals meet regularly to discuss ideas and get them moving across their idea boards.

UMass Memorial President and CEO Eric Dickson, MD, MHCM, supports the process by sharing innovative employee ideas developed on the idea board on his blog, Everyday Innovators.

In a recent blog post, Dickson described the problem of handling gallons of peritoneal dialysis fluid, which was proving to be a challenge for caregivers, particularly those with bad backs. To solve this problem, staff built a $50 cart to transport the fluid to and from the bedside.

As Dickson describes, the fresh electrolyte solution starts on top of the cart and is fed into the peritoneal cavity. The fluid then drains out into a drain bag on the lower level of the cart which can easily be moved and appropriately disposed of.

This is just one of many low-cost ideas being developed by system employees via idea boards. In fact, as of May 2014, there were 300 idea boards in use at UMass Memorial.

Does your hospital have a way to develop and implement employee ideas? Do you use idea boards? Share with us in the comments below.

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