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System’s Partnership with University of South Carolina Pays Dividends
"These students are incredibly intelligent, and they are bringing in great energy and ideas."

Jim Leonard
Assistant Vice President
Performance Excellence Center

Carolinas HealthCare System is providing a unique educational experience for some of the best and brightest senior students at the University of South Carolina.

The Carolinas HealthCare System Management Team is partnering with the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina to give students who are enrolled in a senior capstone course the opportunity to complete a project within the System.

A capstone project is a major assignment that is meant to be the final piece of an undergraduate degree. It requires a great deal of research and effort and is supervised by a professor or teacher. The System began participating in the USC’s Capstone Scholars program last year, which means that students have now completed two projects within the System.

Jim Leonard, assistant vice president of the performance excellence center, said this kind of opportunity is greatly beneficial to the students. In addition, it offers hospital leadership a unique outside perspective on how to improve their services and continue to develop best practices.

“These students are incredibly intelligent, and they are bringing in great energy and ideas. By analyzing the information they gathered during their time spent at the System, we have been able to make positive changes and we look forward to having them work with us in the future,” said Leonard.

For the most recent project, students worked with the Levine Children’s Specialty Center. Jamie Hughes, operations director for the center, said the students used data from the center to make recommendations for improvement.

“I gave them an overall presentation of the clinic and wanted them to identify some opportunities from their perspective. They collected data on patient encounters and made several observations – with this information they came back with a few recommendations,” said Hughes. “Then, as a team, we focused on two to three of their recommendations, and they were responsible for implementing those components. We are still initiating some, but I do believe that the data will support the need.”

The first capstone project took place at an urgent care facility in Fort Mill. The focus of the project was cycle-time reduction. Stephen Jones, vice president of urgent care in the Carolinas Physician Network, and Lorenzo Small, director, urgent care services, west region, said the System is already initiating some of the findings from the project, and since its completion, they have identified that the greatest opportunity for improvement in cycle time would be the addition of two registrar full-time employees.

The System has responded by adding one full-time registrar and creating greater utilization of PRN registrars to fill in scheduling gaps. Improvements in cycle times include:

  • Time-to-Provider: 49.7 percent reduction January- April 2013 compared to the same period last year.
  • Total Cycle Time: 1.4 percent reduction January- April 2013 compared to the same period last year. This equates to one full minute per patient.
Small said they couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome.

“We still believe we have opportunity for further improvement on complete cycle time, but we are moving in the right direction,” said Small.

The management team is also in the process of streamlining other System-wide procedures as a result of this partnership.

“Outside X-ray tracking processes has resulted in efficiency in how we managed X-rays referred to us by other practices in our medical office building, which has improved lag time,” said Jones. “Plus, we are reorganizing lobbies to create the opportunity for better communication between registrars and patients as well as the reorganization of the front desk in the form of better placement of forms and printers, among other things.”

Due to the success of both projects for students and Carolinas HealthCare System, there are plans to continue working with USC on future capstone projects.

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