Monday, January 31, 2011

Lean in Healthcare

By Al Norval

There’s an interesting groundswell occurring in the Healthcare industry that’s long overdue. Lean applied to processes that deliver care to patients and not just too administrative processes. The result – improved quality of patient care and less cost in delivering healthcare. Talk about a win-win situation. We can argue about what triggered this. Whether it was government legislation or a public outcry over rising costs, it doesn’t matter. Bottom line is there is an incentive now to change.

In the past, attempts to change the value streams of patient care were met with resistance in the form of arguments against “robotic medicine” and “standardized medicine”. Understandable considering the years of training medical practitioners receive.

The difference now is that we understand all work is a process and all processes have waste. By taking the waste out of the process and standardizing the value adding steps that are left, we create more value for the patient (customer). The standards form a platform for continuous improvement.

In the words of Taiichi Ohno “without standards, there can be no improvement”.
The healthcare provider teams are then more like a great jazz band, all following basic standards that allow them to riff and end up playing great music.

Healthcare teams riff according to the needs of the patient but the team must all be playing from the same sheet of music. The end result a significant decrease in medical induced errors and infections which are leading indicators of improved patient care and lower healthcare costs.

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