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They’re delivering a one-two punch to defects. They’re ridding the earth of process waste. They’re on the front lines delivering customer service perfection. They’re in leadership striving to make a difference in the world. They’re kicking process improvement butt! The Wonder Women of Quality are here!

This month in the Wonder Women of Quality pantheon we are honored to highlight Lynne Emmons!

Lynne Emmons is the Chief of Quality, Information, & Technology at Valle del Sol, a nonprofit healthcare provider in Arizona. She has a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, she is IT Certified and she is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Lynne is also the Chair of the Arizona FQHC Quality Improvement Committee. In this capacity, Lynne drives change initiatives which impact healthcare for over 500,000 Arizona and New Mexico residents. When not navigating healthcare systems and ensuring quality service delivery, she loves time with her family and chasing her 7, 4, and 2-year old children.

Here are Lynne’s answers to a few of our questions:

What is your Quality Mission?

Do one thing today that will have the greatest impact. Too often our day is filled with tasks that are urgent but not important. Block out and invest the time on things that will have a lasting impact, whether it be for one person or for an entire organization. Then you won’t be looking back on your day asking, “where did the time go?” You’ll be saying, “today I made a difference.”

What is your Quality Superpower?

I’m a lifelong learner—Last year I became certified as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. The certification enabled me to increase the deliverables throughput in my Quality Management department as well as the volume of new patients we see every day. I learned so I could improve. This year I received training in SQL reporting and I am 2 weeks away from getting my IT fundamentals certification. I learned so I could be cross-trained and jump into the work for the understaffed IT department. So, while the reason for learning may change, the learning itself will remain a constant in my life.

I’m thorough enough—When I work on a project, a meeting, an email, etc I give it 110%…up to a point. We have all been in meetings where we go down the rabbit hole. Going down rabbit holes can be very fruitful, but we have to constantly evaluate the ROI of each discussion. Perfection is the enemy of progress.

I have vision—My mind sees things that others have difficulty grasping. I don’t know why. I can see the potential of a process and the rough outline of the workflow. Sometimes it is so complex I have to get it down on paper or have others experience “the vision.” Sometimes, I feel like I’m an alien speaking another language. But it’s a useful superpower.

What do you see as Quality Kryptonite?

Competing priorities—Chiefs, directors, supervisors and staff are all working on fantastic goals but it takes us 10x as long because we are working on all 10 at once.

Emotionally driven—We overstaffed or understaffed based on “What-ifs.” We limit future investments due to past failures. We argue for the sake of arguing. We focus on the exceptions and not the rule. It is exhausting. Emotion can be a very powerful motivator and an agent for change. The challenge is redirecting that energy to find the data to deflate the What-ifs, support the investments, collapse the arguments, and clear our focus.

What are some of your Quality Victories?

QM Department Throughput

This was my first Lean Six Sigma Project. It proved to me that you don’t need more staff if you can find efficiencies. Our baseline for 2016 was 283 deliverables completed as a team. At the close of the project in May 2017, we had increased it to 345. By the end of 2017 we were able to increase it again to 590. And in 2018 we grew it to 670. During this time we added no new positions. We simply made processes more efficient or added new ones. Now any time somebody says we need more staff (in any department) I ask them to measure their work and address waste first.

IT Infrastructure & Resources

I was promoted to a Chief position with oversight of all things IT. I didn’t do a DMAIC project, but I did get to work straight away to measure the volume of work and the efficiency of the staff. For years we have talked about the need in IT both for the infrastructure and the equipment. Improvement was minimal in either equipment or workflow because resources are limited in a nonprofit organization. Within 4 months we had collected enough data using Lean Six Sigma concepts to unite the C-Suite on priorities, a plan for improvement, and a consolidated effort to cover the cost of the project through fundraising or productivity. The sense of unity amongst the C-Suite and as an organization has been extremely rewarding.

FastTrack Intakes

Patients used to have to wait weeks, if not months, to start services with us. It was painful for them to manage their needs alone and it was expensive for us when patients wouldn’t show up. Now we have a process in place where patients can walk into one of our sites 5 days a week and are guaranteed to start services that day. The success of this project led to buy-in from the C-Suite to champion the Same Day Psych Eval project. (See below for more detail).

Same Day Psych Evals

Patients had to wait 30-90 days to see a psychiatric provider to start medications. We decided to start same-day appointments much like the intakes. Patients could walk into 1 of our sites 4 days a week and get an appointment that day or within 7 days. It failed horribly. Two staff undermined the process, 1 staff partially participated, and 1 staff fully adopted it. Within 2 weeks, the process had reverted back to the “before” version and we lost buy-in from staff who stopped sending referrals and from patients who stopped walking into the clinic. However, I consider this a victory because it rallied our C-Suite to champion the project and now the project has started anew with 6 weeks of participation and growth every week.

Do you have any Words of Wisdom?

If you are the only one rocking a boat the waves stop when you stop. Pick the right project (low effort/high impact). This will motivate others to start rocking the boat with you, or better yet…they will rock their own boat.

Thanks again to Lynne Emmons for her quality thoughts!

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