Health Care

Staff's ideas save money at Newton hospital

Newton Medical Center has saved $1.7 million over the past year by implementing ideas submitted by its staff members in a "Show Me the Money" campaign.

Val Gleason, vice president for physician services, said health care is not immune to economic downturns. A year ago, hospital management turned to its front-line workers for ideas that would save money and eliminate waste.

"Our entire hospital community responded" to the "Show Me the Money" challenge, she said.

The savings, said hospital spokesman Barrick Wilson, "allowed us to save money, it allowed us to protect patient care, and it allowed us to protect the integrity of the work force by not having to have any layoffs."

For its efforts, Newton Medical Center got the 2009 Thomas R. Sipe Challenge award, given by the Kansas Hospital Association's Education and Research Foundation. Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute shared the award.

Gleason said hospital employees submitted 121 ideas; 62 were implemented, some almost immediately and others over time.

In one case, two surgeons met with operating room staff to review supplies routinely kept on hand and found several thousand dollars' worth that were redundant, Gleason said.

In other cases, one product was traded for an equally good one that cost less, Gleason said. Those changes sometimes resulted in hundreds of dollars in savings; in other cases, they amounted to thousands of dollars.

The widespread participation was as welcome as the savings, she said.

"It was not just management, it was not management imposing its will, it was management saying, 'Here's the problem we face, here's the external environment, how are we going to respond to this?' "

The initiative was so successful, she said, that the medical center has started a second one called "Show Me the Change." It will focus on process changes and performance improvement.

Gleason said trying to change processes — to switch to the hospital version of "lean manufacturing" — takes "more time and more critical thinking and more managerial energy."