On June 14 and June 20, Keck Medicine of USC celebrated the graduation of its first leadership cohorts for the Keck Academy for Continuous Improvement (KACI). A collaboration between the Keck Medicine of USC Operating System, the Quality Institute and the health system entities, the goal of the program is to train the workforce in best practices in order to strengthen quality and safety improvement processes within health care environments. USC Arcadia Hospital leaders also completed a two-day bootcamp version of the KACI program.

“The creation of this academy underscores Keck Medicine of USC’s commitment to the community and to being a trusted leader in quality health care,” said Tom Bates, MBA, RN, chief quality officer for Keck Medicine. “We designed the curriculum to deploy and integrate the latest evidence-based strategies that optimize quality and safety on behalf of patients seeking both simple and complex care.”

KACI is based off Lean Six Sigma and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Model for Improvement. Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement approach that uses a collaborative team effort to enhance performance by systematically removing operational waste and reducing process variation. It combines Lean Management and Six Sigma to increase the velocity of value creation in business processes. The framework for the IHI’s Model for Improvement is a powerful tool to accelerate improvement which consists of three fundamental questions:  What are we trying to accomplish? How will we know that a change is an improvement? What change can we make that will result in improvement?

KACI also incorporates IHI’s Plan-Do-Act cycle to test changes in real work settings.

“Our mission is to create environments where leaders can thrive and contribute fully to the culture of our health system,” said Smitha Ravipudi, MPH, chief executive officer for USC Care Medical Group. “We see this program as an important step in creating lasting, positive change for our organization.”

The program launched in 2023 and has been offered at a tailored pace to accommodate the needs of each participating entity and cohort. From a two-day bootcamp with leaders at USC Arcadia Hospital to a monthly ten-session format for Keck Medical Center of USC nursing leaders and leadership from the USC Care Medical Group, participants have engaged in a variety of improvement and development courses. These included topics such as “Improving Quality and Adding Value,” “Leading Change,” “Design Thinking,” “Key Quality Tools,” “Sustainment and Standard Work” and “Sharing Best Practices.” Importantly, participants received over 160 hours of coaching to apply their learnings toward organizational goals and priorities.

“With this program, our hope is to strengthen our improvement capabilities by providing leaders, and ultimately our team members, with methods and tools to enhance the care USC Arcadia Hospital delivers to the communities we serve,” said Ike Mmeje, MHSA, President and CEO for USC Arcadia Hospital.

Part of the KACI curriculum also involves a 3-step project development phase, which includes “See One,” “Do One” and “Teach One.” Here, leaders first engage in a Lean academy training session. Next, they lead a process improvement project with a team within their cohort. And finally, each team coaches other Keck Medicine community members about continuous improvement principles and how they relate to Keck Medicine’s strategic pillars: Safety, Quality, People, Service, Access, Growth and Financial Stewardship.

“To serve our patients and communities, we must have compassionate leaders whose generosity and forward thinking allow our enterprise to adapt to the world around us,” said Annette Sy, DNP, RN, NE-BC, chief nursing executive for Keck Medical Center of USC. “This program is laying a strong foundation for our leaders to reach even greater heights of success.”

To date, 90 leaders have participated in KACI and there are plans to make the program available to a broader Keck Medicine audience in the coming months.

“Ultimately, we see this academy as being an important element in Keck Medicine becoming a learning organization,” said Kaveh Houshmand Azad, EdD, director of the Keck Medicine Operating System. “A learning organization facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. These enhanced processes enable an organization to stay competitive in its industry. For us at Keck Medicine, promoting the education and development of our workforce is essential to us serving the needs of our communities to the fullest.”

— Matthew Vasiliauskas