Visual Management in a Prepared Foods Counter

As my wife and I are in the process of moving to San Antonio, we’ve visited the local Central Market grocery store there during our house hunting trips. Behind the prepared foods counter is a visual management indicator for employees and, to some extent, for customers. It’s a bit vague what is meant by “mid-day.” I”m curious to come back at, say 5 pm, to see if that red circle has been flipped to green, indicating that the food safety check has been done.

Can hospitals use something similar?

For this to be an effective “visual management” guide, we need the following:

  • The visual needs to be an accurate indicator of food safety checks (nobody turns it around without doing the check)
  • Management needs to look and take action when a problem is indicated (such as being 11 am and the “opening” circle being red)

I’ve seen similar red/green indicators in use when I visited Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Illinois. These visual prompts are like simple checklists to help ensure that daily tasks get done.

What are the possible applications for hospitals? Why doesn’t a patient room have clear indicators that show if the patient has been repositioned every two hours if they are at risk of getting a bed sore (aka pressure ulcer). The visual at the grocery store provides accountability. Why isn’t there similar accountability in hospitals?

Has your organization made use of this concept?


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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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