Toyota Assembly Line Inspires Improvements at Hospital

Washington Post (via MSNBC):

Another example of the waste-filled health care system adopting TPS methods and approaches:

“In adopting the Toyota mind-set, Kaplan said, the 350-bed hospital has saved $6 million in planned capital investment, freed 13,000 square feet of space, cut inventory costs by $360,000, reduced staff walking by 34 miles a day, shortened bill-collection times, slashed infection rates, spun off a new business and, perhaps most important, improved patient satisfaction.”

But, with some downside?

“Such a radical new management style did not come without strains. A few top executives have left, and many physicians have balked at what they consider threats to their autonomy. Sending teams to Japan and hiring consultants cost about $1.5 million. And as in car production, there are safety risks in too much streamlining.

I don’t understand what they mean by safety risks…. I can’t imagine a TPS approach or consultant encouraging anyone to focus on anything but safety first (employee and customer/patient safety). I hope this is just a case of the reporter not understanding.

This columnist, from Minnesota, takes a somewhat cynical view of adopting Toyota methods to hospitals. As “lean healthcare” becomes more common, we’ll have to work to fight uninformed “people aren’t like cars” perceptions that miss the point.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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1 Comment on "Toyota Assembly Line Inspires Improvements at Hospital"

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  1. Mark Graban says:

    Also, I disagree with the Washington Post article that Dell Computer has copied the Toyota method. Dell has, for better or for worse, developed their own model. I didn’t see a whole lot that was inspired by Toyota and I know that it wasn’t Michael Dell’s initial inspiration.

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