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Blog Feature

By: AAST Editor on August 21st, 2019

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Sleep Centers Using Lean Concepts

sleep center | sleep technologist

Lean manufacturing originated in Japan, where Toyota developed the Toyota Production System as a way to organize its manufacturing and logistics. Since then, many other organizations have adopted the Toyota Way, including sleep centers. While those who work in sleep centers aren’t making cars, the concepts are applicable and useful.

“In the Toyota Way, the front-line workers are developed and supported to identify challenges or gaps, and recommend solutions,” says Kimberly Trotter, MA, RPSGT, administrative director at the University of California San Francisco Adult and Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center. “They are expected to ‘hold the line,’ if there are defects in the ‘product.’”

What Does Lean Do?

Trotter’s hospital system uses lean concepts, which she says “helps reduce defects by tracking metrics daily and marking down waste, and addressing barriers.”

Her hospital system has been rolling out lean for the last five years, and each department and manager is slowly getting trained on the principles, she says. “Much of the lean language is being used regularly to change the culture of our hospital system.”

While Trotter is not personally certified, she participated in a one-week boot camp, and there are many lean certified staff in her system.

“We use lean principles with problem solving and keeping the supplies organized,” she says. “For problem solving, I coach the front-line staff in identifying a problem, what the target, current state and gap are, and from the problem solving, ask them to pick one tactic or experiment, and track the results to see if it moves the needle. If so, then we ‘adopt’ the new tactic, and then start over again with another problem. We use what is called a “True North Board” that is visible to staff and has different pillars or areas that we can focus on (i.e., patient satisfaction, quality and safety, financial, strategic development, staff engagement and learning).”

'It Actually Works'

Sarah Brennecka, BA, RPSGT, supervisor of the DME and sleep center at Centegra Health System, also uses lean concepts in her lab. The biggest change she’s noticed is “We are more aware of productivity, and it’s put us in a state of readiness. We track performance and outcomes. It’s allowed my team to be more engaged and feel like they are making differences.”

At Centegra, there is an executive-level commitment to implement a process improvement methodology. “Leaders went through three phases of training (bronze, silver, gold) where the lean concepts and tools were taught in an 18-month program,” Brennecka says.

Lean doesn’t just empower employees; it actually works. “We have seen more staff engagement, improvements made by staff ideas, and our supplies are much more organized,” Trotter says. “We don’t run out of supplies, and then over-order, resulting in more supplies than we need.”

Want to learn more about evolving sleep centers? Check out the course "The Evolving Role of the Sleep Technologist."

The Evolving Role of the Sleep Technologist

Learn more about the role of the sleep manager/director.