Using Lean to Improve Patient Safety and Resource Utilization After Pediatric Adenotonsillectomy

Mingyang L. Gray, Sida Chen, Eliezer Kinberg, Patrick Colley, Benjamin D. Malkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this quality improvement project was to decrease the rate of nonemergent use of emergency department (ED) resources in children undergoing adenotonsillectomy by 50% and/or reach a future state of 5% or less overall ED visits among all postoperative patients within 1 year. A secondary objective was to standardize the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative management of these patients. Methods: The study was a quality improvement project using Lean. The target population was children younger than 18 years undergoing tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy. A retrospective review of adenotonsillectomy was performed for a 12-month period. Lean tools including A3 Thinking, Ishikawa “fishbone” diagram, and value stream mapping were used to analyze the problem and identify interventions. Postintervention data were collected for a 10-month period. Results: Compared with the baseline period, the ED visit rate after adenotonsillectomy decreased from 36.2% to 15.5% (P = 0.0095). The rate of ED visits for nonbleeding complaints decreased from 30.4% to 12.1% (P = 0.01748). There was no significant change in rate of ED visits for bleeding (decreased from 5.8% to 3.5% [P = 0.6873]). There was no significant change in the use of intraoperative dexamethasone and acetaminophen. Conclusions: Postadenotonsillectomy patients often use emergency resources better reserved for other patients. Addressing this problem with Lean principles significantly decreased postoperative ED visit rates by more than 50%. Implications for Practice: To our knowledge, this is the first reported use of Lean principles to decrease utilization of emergency resources in the postoperative period. Lean can be applied to other processes in our field to eliminate waste and add value to improve patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-100
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of patient safety
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • A3
  • lean
  • quality improvement
  • resource utilization
  • tonsillectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Leadership and Management


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