ThedaCare's Improvement Journey

Since ThedaCare‘s lean journey began more than a decade ago, the Appleton-based health system, led by Dr. Dean Gruner, has made health care more efficient while better meeting patients’ needs and providing the best quality of care. Overall, ThedaCare’s lean practices saved an estimated $20 million in those first years.

While visiting the Ariens Co., a maker of snow-throwers and lawnmowers, in 2002, then ThedaCare CEO Dr. John Toussaint had an idea: take the lean manufacturing techniques to make its facilities in nearby Brillion, Wis., more productive and applying it to healthcare to meet customers’ needs by increasing accessibility to high-quality care.

Using its lean techniques, ThedaCare looks at every part of the patient experience from office calls to emergency department visits. We’ve cut down waiting times, improved patient care, creating a better patient experience at a lower cost.

Office visits: Teams of employees and patients helped us change the way we do office visits. When visiting a ThedaCare physician, you’ll always leave with a written treatment plan and important health information. If you need a basic lab test, we’ll have you come in a few minutes early and take the blood draw and you and your doctor will see the results before you leave, cutting down on unnecessary waiting times and call backs. Working with employees, we made changes to the scheduling process and increased the availability of same-day appointments.

Hospital care: Employees created a hospital department from the ground up – not only changing how rooms were designed, but also how care is delivered at the bedside. Called Collaborative Care, these changes mean nursing staff can spend more time caring for patients and less time looking for medication, supplies, and medical records. Hospital rooms are now stocked with necessary supplies and a bedside computer station makes it easy for health professionals to check on a patient’s history. Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists now come together to discuss how patients are doing, develop a care plan, and share that information with them and their families. The result is shorter hospital stays, lower readmission rates, and happier patients. 

Today, ThedaCare shares the lessons it has learned, and continues to learn, with health systems around the world through the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value.

While we’ve made a lot of changes and improvements, we’re not done. ThedaCare employees continually look for ways to improve patient care.