A ‘Lean’ Philosophy and Culture: Continuous Improvement in the Healthcare Contact Center (Part 2)

In the first part of our series, we looked at the philosophy behind the culture of ‘Lean’ in RelateCare through the establishment of our Continuous Improvement Division.  

In this second part, we go a little deeper. Inspired by a presentation from our CEO, Conor O’Byrne at the recent Enterprise Excellence Conference on Global Leadership in Lean Management, part two of this series focuses on the impact both internally in RelateCare and externally on specific projects for our client-partners in healthcare. 

*To read Part 1 of our Lean series, follow the link here: A ‘Lean’ Philosophy and Culture: Continuous Improvement in the Healthcare Contact Center (Part I)

Part 2

Since its inception RelateCare, and its sister company Rigneydolphin, have been deeply committed to incorporating a ‘continuous improvement’ mindset into both our internal operations, and our consultancy solutions, offered to healthcare systems across the globe.

This is not just a ‘box-ticking exercise’ but a real commitment to a fundamental cultural ethos that is embedded in the both the day-to-day operations of our contact centers and the broader strategy for our client engagements as we support patients on their care journey, both pre- and post-hospitalization.

Leading our Continuous Improvement Division is Ian Gourlay with over 30 years’ experience in this field (10 years of which was with Toyota Motor Corporation, renowned as the birthplace of Lean, where he was Support Services Manager). Ian holds a master’s degree (MBS Hons.) in Lean Practice, Lean Black Belt and Six Sigma Green Belt.

Internal focus

Internally, RelateCare’s core values center around a group-wide, customer-driven focus on continually analyzing the way we work to deliver exceptional value to our clients and their patients.

For our two best-in-class contact centers in Cleveland OH, and Waterford Ireland, this means instilling and promoting a culture-shift in our team toward becoming a problem-solving vehicle, always using ‘Lean’ philosophy, principles and tools in our contact center environments.

RelateCare and Rigneydolphin Lean journey

RelateCare Lean Journey Timeline
RelateCare and Rigneydolphin Lean transformation journey.

Investing in Lean

In the coming year, we aim to relaunch our Lean training programs – White belt, Yellow belt and new Green belt program.This will be for all agents, supervisors, managers etc. The Green belt will include project submissions for real improvements across core operating metrics typically saving in excess of €50k per project.

Changes, challenges and innovations since COVID

Pre-COVID our contact centers would have been hives of activity, highly visual, bright, and colorful with displays and Lean wall boards where we track our ideas through to implementation.

Recreating this during our shift to Work-From-Home has been challenging. As well as moving to traditional and widespread use of software such as MS Teams, Slack, SharePoint and messaging apps, we have introduced virtual whiteboards, encouraging collaboration and brainstorming at all levels and ultimately improving our processes.

Combining all this with our upcoming employee communication rollout we feel we are providing a social experience that fosters engagement and incorporates fun and a community spirit for everyone whilst ensuring real time communication.

External focus – Consultancy Solution

RelateCare works with leading health systems across the world to improve patient access and patient engagement, both pre- and post-hospitalization.

We have found that the addition of a Continuous Improvement initiative has served to enhance our solutions and provide measurable and consistent value to our client partners.

Our Lean consultancy engagements follow an 8-step process to approach a problem:

  1. Clarify
  2. Break it down
  3. Set the target
  4. Analyze the root cause
  5. Develop counter measures
  6. Implement changes
  7. Monitor results and processes
  8. Standardize and share

Case Study Snapshot: Stanford Children’s Health

RelateCare began providing Appointment Scheduling support to Stanford Children’s Health in 2014.

In 2018, RelateCare embarked on a Continuous Improvement initiative utilizing Lean Six Sigma philosophies to enhance the Appointment Scheduling Team Performance. This work ultimately led to significant improvements in Average Handle Time, Team Performance, and Quality Assurance scores.

After carrying out the initial investigation, the CID team found that there were several areas of opportunity across People, Process and Technology. This included ongoing refresher training for staff and individual performance reviews. We also looked at new IT workflows and revamping the knowledge-base, among many other strategic initiatives.

The impact of these projects was discernible and tangible:

  • 12% Reduction in team available
  • 80% Reduction in huddle time
  • 11% Increase in Quality score
  • 35% Increase in Outbound work

Case Study Snap-shot: SLUCare University Hospital

RelateCare have been providing Nurse Triage support to SLUCare University Hospital since 2017.

In May 2018, the SLUCare Nurse Triage Team took part in a Continuous Improvement initiative utilizing Lean Six Sigma philosophies to enhance overall performance.

RelateCare also placed a focus on real-time analysis, continuous feedback, coaching and job specific training which yielded:

  • 41% in In-basket (Electronic Health Record messaging) Productivity
  • 13% reduction in Abandoned Calls
  • 13% reduction in call Handling Time.
  • 71% decrease in reported medication related errors

The output of the project resulted in a decrease in the amount of time Physicians need to spend doing administrative work, allowing them to focus on patient-facing engagement. Further, an increase in medication refill accuracy and physician satisfaction.

“I wanted to convey my thanks to all of you for the great improvements I have seen in nurse triage. The complaints from my providers are almost non-existent, the baskets look absolutely beautiful today, and the kindness and compassion you show our patients on a daily basis is amazing”

SLUCare Director of Operations

Senior Leadership Buy-in

A key take away, and an element that has allowed our Continuous Improvement Division to be so successful is the buy-in of senior leadership. You can have the expertise, ideas, and will, but if you are not supported by the wider organization it can be difficult realize the ideas and strategies you have in mind.

Only through this buy in can Lean foster full employee participation and therefore understand needs and areas of opportunity.

Whether it’s creating the governance and structures to support implementation or holding people to account for Lean commitments, leadership buy-in is required to both create and realize a long-term vision and create the conditions whether the Lean culture can establish itself.


In this two-part series, we have introduced RelateCare’s Continuous Improvement division, showed its basis in Lean philosophy and how it has been adopted in a culture-shift within RelateCare. We have also displayed examples of its impact in our consultancy engagements with clients and how it can make a difference to the people, processes and technology utilization within the healthcare contact center, leading to improved efficiencies and cost savings.

If you would like to find out more about our ‘Continuous Improvement Division’ and our Lean programs, please get in touch with us at info@chrisc116.sg-host.com.