Hospital Lean: Error Proofing

See this link: Stay safe in the hospital

For some people, this is “Everyday Lean” unfortunately. Some great tips here if you, or someone you love, is going into the hospital, tips for preventing mistakes.

There are plenty of lean principles or opportunities for lean at play here, but I was thinking of one, in particular:

“Busy staffers may mistake micrograms for milligrams or mistake one patient for another.”

When typed out, you can tell the abbreviations for micrograms and milligrams apart.


But, when written out by hurried doctors, these easily can get confused. Here is my attempt to write them out. That’s “micrograms” on the left.


So, what do you do? We’re not yet in the era of the “paperless hospital.” In theory, these types of things should never be handwritten. But, today, they are in most (or many) hospitals. You could tell the doctors and everyone involved to “be careful.” But, that’s not very effective error proofing.

Some hospitals are making a systemic process change that they hope will prevent this error. They are banning the typical abbreviation for micrograms. They want everyone to use “mcg” for micrograms and “mg” for milligrams.


Much better than telling everyone to “be careful.” You just have to get everyone to follow this new “standard work.” Old habits will be hard to break, but lives are at stake.

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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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