AMC Family Birth Center Case Study

The Family Birth Center at Appleton Medical Center is an unpredictable, busy place. Staff members never quite know how many moms-to-be may come in on a given day. In that kind of environment where anything is possible, communication among staff members is essential, but at times can be difficult and inconsistent. That inconsistency may not only lead to additional or unnecessary work for employees, but also unsatisfied patients.

Using ThedaCare’s lean management principles, Birth Center staff members improved communication and developed new processes leading to increased patient satisfaction.


ThedaCare is a non-profit community health system based in Appleton, Wis., comprised of seven hospitals and 35 clinics in northeast Wisconsin. With nearly 6,100 employees, it is one of the largest local employers and is dedicated to delivering world-class care for its patients. Since 2002, ThedaCare has embraced lean management principles to improve the quality of care and while containing costs. The health system took the Toyota Production System model of lean manufacturing and adapted it for healthcare, creating teams of employees and patients to take a hard look at the way ThedaCare was doing things and come up with a better way.

In the Birth Center, staff members saw several areas where improved communication could make a difference. For example, education for new moms and babies is a big part of the post-partum experience and staff members sometimes didn’t know what information was already shared with new moms.

Unlike other departments where a week-long rapid improvement event or RIE is held to look in-depth at an issue, Birth Center staff instead experimented with identifying solutions daily to problems and then putting those solutions into action.

The Challenge: Improve communication surrounding the new mom education process

New moms receive a lot of educational information following the birth of their baby. Some is about their own health while others are related to their new son or daughter.

“There’s a lot of educational information that needs to be shared with parents before they leave the hospital and it wasn’t always clear to staff members what had previously been shared with patients since information is shared at different points; at times information was repeated or may have been missed,” said Deb VandenLangenberg, the Birth Center’s business unit manager. “Staff members also spent time trying to find the information in patient reports so we looked at ways to simplify that, too.”

The Results: New moms get the information they need when they need it.

VandenLangenberg said staff members developed new education sheets so it was very clear where one staff member left off so when the next shift came in, the new staff member knew exactly what had been shared already with patients.

“We were successful in completing 100 percent of the education necessary to new moms,” she said.

VandenLangenberg said the process of handing over patient information between staff members was changed so the incoming shift had the necessary information in hand.

 “We created reports that included standard information about patients that can easily be shared,” she said. “Staff members now have the information they need to provide a higher level of care to patients.”

Since the changes were made, the percentage of patients rated their experience a “9” or “10” increased 2.5 percent to 78.9 percent. At the same time, safety and quality measures improved 17.9 percent.

What’s Next?

Since Birth Center staff members are used to the daily improvement process and identifying problems, developing solutions, and then implementing them, VandenLangenberg said that process will continue.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the level of care for patients while also making sure we are as productive as we can be,” she said.

The department’s work extends beyond the Birth Center’s walls. VandenLangenberg said other departments at ThedaCare will also look at how staff members did their daily improvement projects. “They can learn from us about what worked with the process and what didn’t,” she said.