Improvement through Small Cycles of Change: Lessons from an Academic Medical Center Emergency Department
This article describes the experiences of a quality improvement team that used small cycles of change to improve the emergency department (ED) of an academic medical center. The role of EDs in the provision of healthcare continues to increase in importance. ED bottlenecks contribute to long waits and diminished outcomes for ED patients as well as more system-wide issues, such as inefficiencies in inpatient admission processes. The purpose of this “ED Operational Efficiency Project” was to reduce lengths of stay (LOS) for low-acuity patients. The team used lean management techniques to both improve services and shift the ED culture to prioritize continuous quality improvement. The goal to reduce LOS by 30% was met as the result of several inter=related projects (or small cycles of change). Key lessons include monitoring metrics, communicating with teams and target populations, learning from initial failures, using small wins to increase momentum, and anchoring changes.