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OCI team's expertise in Lean process improvement plays critical role in state's response to COVID-19 pandemic

Photo of staff at the Suburban Collection Showplace field hospital in Novi.

Despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases around Michigan in early April, the Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI) responded to a request for assistance streamlining operation and construction plans for the Suburban Collection Showplace field hospital in Novi.

April 8 fell during the worst period for COVID-19 infection rates in Michigan to date. While the risks of going into Michigan’s COVID-19 “hot zone” were high, the team from OCI could not turn down an opportunity to assist with the crisis, even if it meant stepping away from their own individual comfort zones. The field hospital would support Ascension Michigan and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System hospitals by providing an alternate care site for low to moderately severe COVID-19 patients to recover. The reduced crowding would allow hospitals to focus on the most critically ill patients.

OCI Director Holly Grandy-Miller, Lean Process Improvement Manager Brett Gleason, and Lean Process Improvement Specialist Anne Cram met with Chief Deputy Director for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Ken McFarlane on April 9 in Novi to walk through the facility and identify needs.

The role of OCI is “about eliminating waste,” Cram said, “when we talk about waste, it’s redundancies, unnecessary approvals, and long wait times.”

After a morning walkthrough of the building, the team had 90 minutes to assess the project plan and provide suggestions for optimizing patient and worker flow throughout the building. Far less time than the two weeks the team would normally take when working on programs for the state of Michigan.

Photo of Suburban Collection Showplace field hospital in Novi flowchart showing Movement of people in building

After prepping materials for the day, the OCI team met with the project manager, Esther Johnson from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with other key stakeholders. The group of roughly 15, which included leaders and healthcare experts from Ascension Health, the Army Corp of Engineers, operations, compliance and safety, project managers and others, suited up in personal protection equipment to begin a tour of the facility to identify needed changes and talk through the logistics of patient and staff flow.

The flowcharts primarily focused on how individuals would be moving throughout the building and preventing cross contamination. This included documenting where medical staff would be changing out of their scrubs, if they would require showers, and whether they would wash work clothing at home or via laundry services provided at the facility.

“Transition areas were also important,” said Cram. “Mapping out the movement of individuals meant that food could be provided to patients without cross-contaminating the building.”

Photo of Suburban Collection Showplace field hospital in Novi.

While touring the 200,000 square foot facility, key decisions had to be made swiftly and decisively. The team created benchmarks based on information from the field hospital at the TCF Center in Detroit and others from around the nation. Even as they walked through the building, the National Guard worked vigorously to assemble more than 250 hospital beds for the facility. Most importantly, OCI asked questions about the “who and how” of the process.

At the end of the walk-through, the team met in the command center to debrief. OCI validated the final design decisions on cot placements, running of gas and water lines, nursing station placement, pharmacy security, creation of a transition zone at the ambulance drop-off, the creation of an air lock for the morgue, and the creation of transition zones for linens and food.

From this point, OCI prioritized the key processes that needed to be documented for the project and to assist with future COVID-19 field hospitals. The Suburban Collection Showcase began accepting patients April 24.


Suburban Collection Showplace field hospital in Novi Zone Safety Flow Chart