Montana State University Industrial Engineering (IE) program in collaboration with the MHREF Rural Hospital Flexibility Program selects two students to participate in a summer internship performing Lean Rapid Improvement Projects in 6 Critical Access Hospitals across rural Montana.  Over each two-week event, students work in conjunction with hospital staff to apply their knowledge of Lean principles and tools towards a pre-determined improvement project within each facility.

  • 22 of 48 Critical Access Hospitals in Montana have hosted students for Lean events
  • 38 improvement projects have been performed by 10 students  since 2010
  • Interns are mentored, long-distance, by a MSU faculty member and a rapid improvement event coach
  • The MT-Flex Program Director and the MSU IE faculty coordinator work together with hospital stakeholders to define the project objectives, coordinate the student requirements and conduct follow-up assessments

Past Projects

Efficiency Improvement within Supplies Inventory at a Critical Access Hospital Project

A common problem that critical access hospitals face is access to resources to improve and have time to take control
of any problems they encounter. The Fallon Medical Center located in Baker, Montana remodeled a section of their
facility and relocated the purchasing and supplies department into this new area. With the available resources of 1.5
full-time equivalents, proper planning was limited and the overall project remained unfinished. The Montana Office of Rural Health received a FLEX grant which was used to fund a Lean Healthcare Process Improvement program. Please view the conference paper of the project - HERE and the presentation slides - HERE

MSU Lean Image


Broadwater Health Center Project

BHC Partners with MHA and MSU

Broadwater Health Center (BHC) is one of six Montana Critical Access hospitals from across Montana to partner with MSU Industrial Engineering students and MHREF Rural Hospital Flexibility Program on a joint Lean Healthcare Project. 

Two MSU engineering interns spent two-weeks at BHC, beginning May 18, to implement a pre-determined focused process improvement project.  Prior to deployment, the interns received education and training in Lean Healthcare concepts, principles and tools and their application relevant to the hospital setting.

Broadwater Health Center originally applied to have their laundry facilities evaluated using the Lean concepts.  For a variety of reasons the BHC laundry facilities are split with the washing machines on the first floor while the drying and folding areas are on the second floor.  That project was deemed too large and unable to be accomplished within the two weeks of the program so an alternative project of, registration to the ER during off hours, was identified.   

The interns work was supervised and coached daily by the MT Flex Program’s Rural Hospital Improvement Coordinator (RHIC) via distance communication, with training and consulting provided by the MSU Industrial Engineering faculty member. 

The objectives of the joint projects were:

  1. To apply and incorporate Lean process management principles to MT Critical Access Hospitals systems via a rapid improvement event.
  2. To collaborate with MSU Mechanical & Industrial Engineering (MSU-MIE) Department in the delivery of this project to Montana CAHs.
  3. Create and coordinate a means for MSU-MIE interns to apply their knowledge and skills in a rural healthcare setting.
  4. Collaborate with existing Lean projects when applicable. 

LEAN Project

MSU Engineering Students Stephen Manko and Kyle Kohn meet BHC Registration Clerk Kindra Turnery.  Stephen and Kyle will be working with Kindra and other BHC Staff on their rapid improvement LEAN project to look at the BHC registration process.