New Penn State program to help health care facilities cut costs

June 01, 2009

Training for health care employees will provide tools to increase efficiencies and reduce waste

University Park, Pa. — Reforming America's health care system is a top Obama administration priority. One change President Obama has promoted is computerizing medical records, which he predicts could save billions in health care costs and countless lives. There's plenty of room for improvement in other areas of the health care system, as well. A new Penn State program aims to equip frontline health care employees with the tools to improve efficiencies and cut waste.

"Our health care system is broken — 50 to 60 percent of what we do every day in health care is wasted," said Susan Sheehy, director of education, innovation and implementation for Lean Healthcare West. Sheehy, a Ph.D. candidate and an RN, cites such examples of waste as the need to clarify medical orders, not having the right supplies in place and waiting for patients and lab results. "We spend so much time wasting time," added Sheehy, who will facilitate the first training program for 16 health care employees from long-term and acute-care facilities in north central Pennsylvania.

The training program adapts principles from the successful Toyota Production System to the health care industry using the “realizing exceptional VALUE IN EVERYDAY WORK” (reVIEW) curriculum. The focus is on examining current processes, taking the processes apart and finding ways to do things better, Sheehy explained.

"We think we have a program that will really impact the efficiency and effectiveness of health care in Pennsylvania," said John Blasdell, assistant director of continuing education at Penn State DuBois and coordinator of the program.

Lean Healthcare West has conducted this training for numerous health care organizations. Among results reported by program graduates are cutting the insurance company approval process for a medication from 21 days to 1 day; reducing by nearly 700 hours a year the time spent searching for equipment, resulting in almost $100,000 of new "billable" time for physical therapists; and reducing operation room start time delays from 21 minutes to less than 10 minutes for a daily cost benefit of $7,206.

Penn State DuBois is hosting the first of four reVIEW programs in partnership with Penn State Outreach's Management Development Programs and Services and Statewide Continuing Education and the North Central Workforce Investment Board (NCWIB).

NCWIB Director Susan Snelick said her organization is using funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to support the reVIEW program. "It's a perfect match with the goals of the state's industry partnerships, because the training will help health care organizations maintain their competitiveness. Controlling costs is key. Implementing the methods learned in this program will enable organizations to do things more cost-effectively," Snelick said.

The 21-hour program includes weekly sessions for seven weeks. There also are opportunities for participants to become coaches in this methodology. All participants work on projects within their organizations and report on them at the final class in front of their organizations’ senior managers. A second program begins July 28 and is already filled.

"As part of our agreement with Lean Healthcare West, we will train four instructors who will then be certified to teach the program," Blasdell said. "This will make the Penn State program self-sustaining, and we will be able to offer it in other regions of Pennsylvania."

For more information, contact John Blasdell, Penn State DuBois Continuing Education, at (814) 375-4822 or

Penn State Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE) delivers professional development and continuing education programs to adult learners at locations across Pennsylvania. CAPE, a unit of Penn State Outreach, uses Penn State’s network of 24 campuses and the University's academic colleges to design master's, bachelor's and associate degree programs for adult learners in a wide range of fields, including business, education, engineering/technology, health, and justice/government. For information, visit online. Penn State Continuing and Professional Education is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide.


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Last Updated November 23, 2010