Failing to Make Discharges Happen By Noon

The Problem
Our journey began with helpful discussion about the problem statement itself, casually referred to as a “discharges before noon project”. Is the goal really to discharge out before lunch? Are long length of stay patients always here longer than necessary? What about readmissions? Ultimately, we chose to frame our problem as discharge delays. Anything that keeps the patient in the hospital longer than is necessary would be considered our problem for solving

The Setup
On paper, we had all of the ingredients for a successful project: solid sponsorship, a fully represented interdisciplinary team, a mutually agreed upon problem (discharge delays) and approach for solving it (the A3 method). The team met every Friday and followed the process: mapping current state, observing, and tracing root causes. We eventually landed on the following key drivers (show in the image to the right). 

The first, and arguably most important condition for success is what the team proved unable to solve for. But it was not for lack of ideas! We discussed Epic triggers for impending discharges, templates for discharge planning, and innovative ways of leveraging the Voalte communication system. However,  these ideas proved either too difficult/costly to implement or too burdensome from a workflow perspective. For example, many of the EHR/Epic-related ideas were ultimately abandoned because they called for double or triple documentation of things.

The Brick Wall
It’s worth noting that the entire team agreed on the idea of bedside team rounding – at least in principle. What better way to get on the same page than rounding on patients with the whole team, in person? If we all agree this is a good idea, why not do it? A big part of this answer has to do with the way the care teams are organized. Patient Care Services, the nursing teams, are primarily organized by unit. Physicians, case managers, pharmacists, and other members of the multidisciplinary team are organized by service. This means that, for the non-unit-based teams, rounding on patients can mean traveling all over campus. For their workflow, it proved too difficult to attempt to schedule their appearances on the units for team rounds. And, even if they did, it proved too difficult from a nursing workflow perspective to interrupt patient care to participate in a round on only a few patients the team would arrive for. Another way this divide in team organization challenged the team was by limiting any unit-specific process changes. For the service-based part of the team it was not realistic to follow different processes on different units. The team asked then, and still asks now: How can we create a shared understanding of our patient plan of care and anticipated discharge date?


The Outlook
What advice might our team give future team’s hoping to address the discharge delay problem? Don’t give up on the dream of team rounds but be mindful of how much time you spend looking for the perfect solution. The key to solving this problem may be found in out-of-the-box thinking. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck we found ways to do in-person things virtually in ways we couldn’t imagine before the pandemic. Perhaps there is a way for us to build the shared understanding we seek using non-traditional methods. The last bit of advice would be this: Be kind to one another. Remember that we are all on the same team and trying to solve the same problems. Recognize we all share the concern that what we change might inadvertently make our jobs harder instead of easier. Lean in with compassion, speak up when you feel the need to, and persevere

Written by Hurley Smith


Alice R. Georgitso, MPH, joins the SMCI Advisory Committee as our first Patient Partner. Alice has served as a Patient Partner with the Stanford Health Care (SHC) Patient & Family Partner Program for over 4 years and was appointed Chairperson of the Adult Congenital Heart Program Patient & Family Advisory Council in January 2020. She assisted in developing the Stanford Adult Congenital Heart Program’s Peer-to-Peer Program and serves as a Mentor to ACHD patients pre-and-post-organ transplantation. Alice has presented Stanford Health Care’s C-I-CARE framework for structuring best practice communications and developing relationship-based care approaches with patients and colleagues to 500+ Stanford Medicine Directors, Managers and Clinical Staff.

Alice is a Patient Relations Manager at Stanford Health Care. Within her role, she provides a channel for problem resolution to promote the highest quality of care and service excellence. Alice has also worked as an Unrelated Donor Search Coordinator with the Blood & Marrow Transplant at Stanford Health Care to coordinate allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants through collaborative planning and partnership with the National Marrow Donor Program and SHC clinicians. Prior to her work with SHC, she was the Community Service Foundation Director at San Mateo County Medical Association where she partnered with local stakeholders and clinicians to expand county-wide community health programs to diverse populations. She has also delivered invaluable community health services through her work with the American Heart Association.

Alice earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Biology at Saint Bonaventure University in Olean, NY and her Master of Public Health from SUNY Buffalo in Buffalo, NY. Alice is a member of The Beryl Institute and Adult Congenital Heart Association professional associations, Donor Network West partner advocating for organ, eye, tissue, and blood donation, and remains an active volunteer with SHC. Alice continues to promote patient-and-family-centered care in both hospital and community settings to support precision health and improve the healthcare experience for patients, families, and clinicians.

John Shook learned about lean management while working for Toyota for 11 years in Japan and the U.S., helping it transfer production, engineering, and management systems from Japan to NUMMI and other operations around the world. While at Toyota's headquarters, he became the company's first American kacho (manager) in Japan. In the U.S., Shook joined Toyota’s North American engineering, research and development center in Ann Arbor, Michigan as general manager of administration and planning. His last position with Toyota was as senior American manager with the Toyota Supplier Support Center in Lexington, Kentucky, assisting North American companies adopt the Toyota Production System. Shook co-authored Learning to See, the book that introduced the world to value-stream mapping. He also co-authored Kaizen Express, a bi-lingual manual of the essential concepts and tools of the Toyota Production System. With Managing to Learn, Shook revealed the deeper workings of the A3 management process that is at the heart of Toyota’s management and leadership.
Shook is an industrial anthropologist with a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, and is a graduate of the Japan-America Institute of Management Science. At the University of Michigan, he was director of the Japan Technological Management Program and faculty member of the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering.
Shook is the author of numerous articles, including "How to Change a Culture: Lessons from NUMMI"; Sloan Management Review, January 2010, which won Sloan’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize for outstanding article in the field of organizational development.

The Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement benefits from the diversity of its members and the richness of the experiences that they bring. Although the program continues to evolve from when it first launched in October 2019, we continue to reach out to improvers across Stanford Medicine in the School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, Stanford Children’s Health, Stanford ValleyCare, UHA and PCHA. We welcome everyone from every discipline and recognize that we are stronger together as we value the contributions of every member of our teams.

Dr. Paul Maggio is the Chief Quality Officer of Stanford Health Care. Prior to being appointed the SHC CQO, he was Vice Chair of Surgery for Clinical Affairs, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Operational Effectiveness, and Associate Director of the Adult Intensive Care Unit. He trained in General Surgery at Brown University and obtained advanced training in Adult Surgical Critical Care and Trauma at the University of Michigan. He holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and is triple board certified in General Surgery, Critical Care, and Medical Informatics. In addition to being a clinician and surgeon, Dr. Maggio participates in the National Committee on Healthcare Engineering for the American College of Surgeons, and his research interests are focused on the delivery of high-value care.

Dr. Maggio received the SHC Board of Hospital Director’s Denise O’Leary Award for Clinical Excellence in 2013

Micah Duchesne joined Stanford Medicine in 2020 as a Principal Consultant project managing the deployment and operations of the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) for COVID-19. He is now the Administrative Director of Performance Improvement at Stanford Health Care where he leads annual operations planning, improvement consulting, and capability development. Micah is also a Fellow at the Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement.

Before joining Stanford, Micah was an independent consultant for his company Silicon Valley Strategy Group, which partnered with Novartis and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania to commercialize cellular therapies. He led a team of clinicians from Europe, Japan, and Australia in designing a global logistics model and quality management system for Kymriah, the world's first approved CAR-T therapy, and helped create an international advisory board aimed at improving global capacity.

Prior to independent consulting, Micah was the Director of Performance Improvement at Kaiser's Santa Clara Medical Center, and he previously held improvement roles of increasing complexity within other health systems. Micah has both a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Health Services Administration from Mississippi College. He also holds certifications as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Project Management Professional.

As a professional, Micah enjoys organizing complex stakeholder ecosystems, clarifying ambiguous goals, aligning visions, and driving high-stakes change. As a human, Micah just enjoys breaking a sweat. While he's not at work, he's at his very own gym in San Jose, CrossFit Moxie. You can find him there coaching olympic weightlifting or working out with his wife. He has a daughter in elementary school and two gym dogs.