U of S research chair examines "biggest experiment world-wide" in improving health-care quality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 18, 2013 2013-04-11 Saskatoon - Thomas Rotter is watching closely as health regions across Saskatchewan strive to adapt the principles of Lean - a system originally developed to build cars - to help cut health-care costs, decrease wait times and move innovations more quickly from the lab to the bedside.

"To my knowledge, this is the biggest experiment world-wide in terms of implementing a quality improvement philosophy or approach like Lean," said Rotter, who holds the University of Saskatchewan research Chair in Health Quality Improvement Science, the first of its kind in Canada. "There are many approaches, not only Lean, but Lean is very progressive with a very broad focus."
Lean management philosophy has its roots in the Toyota Management System. Some of its central tenets are increased efficiency, decreased waste and using research to decide what matters rather than accepting pre-existing ideas. Rotter said this is a key challenge.
"Research shows it takes 17 years to transfer the available evidence from research to the bedside, to the patient," he said. "That's unacceptable. That's far too long."
One of Rotter's aspirations is to do the research to see if the Saskatchewan experiment is working. He is pursuing is a proposal to the provincial Ministry of Health to evaluate the Lean initiative. He explained that while there are intriguing case studies, there are little hard data on how - or if - processes like Lean contribute to health quality improvement.
Rotter's research chair, which he took on in September 2012, is a partnership among the U of S, Saskatchewan's Health Quality Council and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. He was recruited from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, where he gained a reputation for his work by helping two major hospitals - one in the Netherlands and one in Germany - co-ordinate efforts to improve health-care delivery.
"Team work has huge implications in terms of the quality of care provided," Rotter said. "The better a health-care team works, the better the outcomes are."
For more information, contact:
Michael Robin
Research Communications Specialist
(306) 966-1425

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