Health Information Management

Q&A: Kaizen events and patient privacy

HIM-HIPAA Insider, January 11, 2011

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Q: During a Kaizen event involving mental healthcare, how can we invite public members of the Kaizen team into the psychiatric emergency and inpatient settings for observation purposes related to the Kaizen?

A: Kaizen (Japanese for “improvement”) is a philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement of processes. Originally applied to manufacturing and engineering, it has been expanded to healthcare and other industries. A Kaizen event is designed to address a particular issue over the course of a week.
Continuous improvement of processes is important in healthcare, as in other industries, but you must balance the need to involve public members of the team with the patient’s right to privacy, particularly in a sensitive area such as psychiatric care.
Some healthcare settings adhere to the practice of obtaining written consent from patients for outside observers, but this is not practical in psychiatric emergency and inpatient settings. Instead, you may need to limit actual observation of patients to staff members.
Public members of the team could participate in subsequent discussions in which staff describe their observations or even role-play the events they observed. This would allow for broad input into the improvement process without violating patient privacy.
Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, vice president of HIM at Scott &
White Healthcare in Temple,TX, answered this question, which originally appeared in the January issue of Briefings on HIPAA.

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