Newswise — SEATTLE – (July 29, 2014) – The August edition of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety features an article about Virginia Mason’s success at using a manufacturing principle of lean to improve medication administration and patient safety.

Titled “Using Lean ‘Automation with a Human Touch’ to Improve Medication Safety: A Step Closer to the ‘Perfect Dose,’” the article describes how the health system employed jidoka to integrate bar code medication administration (BCMA) technology into the nursing work flow with minimal disruption. Jidoka is a method to increase productivity by implementing intelligent automation and defect-elimination strategies. It is part of the Virginia Mason Production System, the organization’s management methodology for improving care quality, patient safety and the overall patient experience.

Joan M. Ching, RN, MN, administrative director for hospital quality and safety at Virginia Mason, and her co-authors analyzed 16,149 medication doses for 3,617 patients during a three-year period. After BCMA implementation, the number of safe-practice violations decreased from 54.8 to 29 per 100 doses, and the number of medication errors decreased from 5.9 to 3 errors per 100 doses.

In an accompanying editorial, Ross Koppel, Ph.D., FACMI, a leading scholar of health care information technology and of the interactions of people, computers and workplaces, observes the article “illustrates how technology should be introduced into health care settings − reflecting respect for and attention to clinician work flow, careful observations, ongoing monitoring, adequate materials handling, flexibility and responsiveness.” However, he cautions that even the most exemplary implementation of technology can bring tradeoffs when absolute adherence to protocols is required.

Virginia Mason is rated as one of the safest hospitals in the United States by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization using the collective leverage of employers and other large purchasers of health care to drive improvements in safety, quality, transparency and affordability.

The Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is published by The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies hospitals across the United States.

About Virginia Mason Virginia Mason, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. Virginia Mason employs 6,000 people and includes a 336-bed acute-care hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 460 physicians; regional medical centers throughout the Puget Sound area; and Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the U.S. designed and built specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason is internationally recognized for its breakthrough autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason was the first health system to apply lean manufacturing principles to health care delivery to eliminate waste, lower cost, and improve quality and patient safety.