In June 2013, Mayo Clinic's Hilton-11 project team began work to develop new safety processes to enhance employees’ preparedness and overall safety. Led by systems engineer Fazi Amirahmadi, Ph.D., the nine-person team was tasked to educate all staff on appropriate actions during emergencies that required relocation or evacuation.
With a work environment consisting of approximately 148 people who have workspaces on the 11th floor of Mayo Clinic’s Hilton Building—including physicians, fellows, residents, and support staff who work in walled offices, cubicles, and shared workspaces—this was no easy feat.
The project team successfully used the Six Sigma DMAIC problem-solving methodology (define-measure-analyze-improve-control) to manage and improve its existing Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP). The plan is outlined in a recent article published in Clinical Laboratory News.
The first phase includes defining the problem, setting goals, and establishing a timeline for the project. After investigating the existing emergency preparedness, the team identified gaps in documentation, visual tools, and staff’s knowledge of emergency readiness. To help identify specific gaps, the team also surveyed the staff, to which 117 (79 percent) responded.
“Our goal was to identify and improve the gaps by at least 10% by the end of 2014,” said Kelly Kittleson, pathology reporting specialist.
The second phase was to measure the current state as a benchmark for comparison to results following the improvement phase. As a result of the survey, the team identified five gaps in the floor’s emergency preparedness:
- Identifying out-of-building evacuation location
- Knowing the appropriate procedure to help handicapped/wheel-bound/unsteady persons
- Identifying off-the-floor relocation area
- Being unable to correctly identify the number/location of available stairwells
- Knowing the appropriate response during an emergency event regarding outside calls to the All-Call Distribution (ACD) incoming phone line
The third phase, analyze, uses root cause analysis (RCA) to identify the factors contributing to the gaps and develop solutions to eliminate those gaps. The team identified the causes for each of the gaps, including an outdated and nonstandard EPP, insufficient orientation and education of staff, absence of visual aids, infrequent drills, and the lack of an ACD emergency message system.
The fourth phase implements the solutions identified through the analysis, making adjustments as needed, and documenting and standardizing the new process. The team developed educational tools to close existing gaps that included visual tools such as maps and laminated pocket-sized emergency information calling cards; distributing and labeling rechargeable flashlights; developing a new process for incoming client calls during emergencies; standardizing and updating the EPP manual; and re-educating staff on emergency preparedness and new processes.
The final phase identifies the long-term process and establishes a mechanism to monitor and sustain the gains made over the long term. To do this, the team formed a three-member safety committee with 6-, 12-, and 18-month initial terms. The safety committee is responsible for educating and training new and existing employees.
“By implementing the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology, we improved our emergency deficiencies by 13 to 40 percent,” said Kittleson. “We feel that our situation is not unique; our hope is that other laboratories and work units will benefit from the DMAIC methodology we utilized.”