Commitment to continuous improvement enhances patient care

Two years ago Northwest Kidney Centers adopted kaizen, Japanese for continuous improvement, an approach to eliminating waste and improving efficiency. The kaizen system originated at Toyota in the 1980s and now is used in many industries around the world.

Northwest Kidney Centers caregivers and other staff members use kaizen principles to refine standard work processes and share best practices throughout the organization.

We’ve made kaizen improvements in key areas, including:

  • Setting the tone for each shift. Each day clinical teams meet briefly around whiteboards where clinical data, issues and trends are logged. These “visual management” boards help teams stay on top of timely patient information and ensure all issues get addressed.
  • Preparing for each patient. We shortened the turnaround time and streamlined the steps to disinfect and prepare a dialysis station between patients – while maintaining rigorous infection prevention standards. We restructured the work of nurses and technicians to make things efficient and identical in each of our 18 dialysis clinics, so quality is high for every patient’s treatment.
  • Storing supplies. Last summer we opened a new Logistics Center at 1903 S. 128th, SeaTac. A dust barrier between the loading dock and the warehouse prevents outside contaminants from entering.
  • Distributing medical supplies to clinics. Warehouse workers now unpack cartons of medical supplies and repackage them into ready-to-use kits for each treatment. Clinical staff members no longer unpack or gather supplies; they simply grab a kit. This change helps prevent infections by limiting dust and germ-carrying cardboard in clinics. It also shortens preparation time for treatment so caregivers spend more time with patients.

We’ll continue to refine our processes to provide the best kidney care available.