By January 15, 2010 0 Comments Read More →

University of Michigan and other hospitals in the news

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This article from Detroit’s Crain’s Business Journal (“Lean machine: Health care follows auto’s lead, gears up for efficiency”) highlights a growing lean healthcare movement in my home state of Michigan, one that, ironically, traces its origins back to Toyota General Motors. Seriously… General Motors.

Featured in the article are Dr. Jack Billi and the University of Michigan Health System, active participants in the Healthcare Value Leaders Network, co-facilitated by the Lean Enterprise Institute.The article discusses how GM helped hospitals last decade and how hospitals are increasingly hiring people from the auto industry (including my former consulting colleague, Ken, who came from Ford and gets a mention in the article.

The UM Health System was one of the first hospital systems in Southeast Michigan to adopt the auto industry’s lean principles, Billi said.

For six of its first eight lean projects, lean engineers from GM’s Global Manufacturing System helped refine UM’s lean philosophy. From 2004 to 2008, GM’s lean team helped to reduce auto recalls by 85 percent.

There are examples and quotes from University of Michigan and a number of other hospitals and systems.

Some of the key points include:

  • Every employee should be involved in improvement and problem solving (University of Michigan)
  • It’s possible to double the percentage of time that nurses spend with patients by eliminating waste (William Beaumont Hospitals)
  • Hospitals should focus on end-to-end patient flow, not just departmental projects
  • Lean is not just about cost, it’s about improving quality and the patient experience
  • Lean should be a cultural transformation, not just a program or projects (St. Joseph Mercy)
  • Lean shouldn’t be used to drive layoffs, or it kills the employee involvement that’s so critical to lean

It’s great to see that progress in Michigan! I wonder if there’s more “lean healthcare” in the Detroit area than there is in Boston?


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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 eBook 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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