ThedaCare, a health system in Wisconsin, is well known for their Lean improvement system and Lean management system (“business performance system“) in their hospitals, including their innovative “collaborative care” model.
Amednews.com recently wrote about ThedaCare’s innovations in primary care delivery in this article:
One innovation that I would welcome with my own primary care physician here in Texas is getting routine lab results back DURING my visit so I can discuss them with my doctor.
My doctor’s workflow:
- Appointment at MD office
- I go get blood drawn another day at another site
- A few days later, I get a call from the MD’s office telling me about the results
With past doctors, I’ve had to nag them to get results, play phone tag for days, or even go back for an appointment just to get some information. Waste! Frustration!
But ThedaCare is doing it better, “with about 90% of the lab tests or imaging studies typically needed in primary care practice can be done on-site.”
This just-in-time approach to lab testing and patient care is a principal example of how physician leaders at ThedaCare have earned an outsized reputation within health care for their widespread implementation of the so-called lean-management methods that helped Toyota Motor Corp. become the world’s biggest automaker. Although taking a manufacturing approach to medicine is most commonly associated with hospitals, ThedaCare is implementing the idea aggressively in primary care.
It’s “patient-centered” care – and it makes you wonder, perhaps, how any healthcare could be anything but “patient centered.”
The article highlights how the efficiency improvements have gone hand-in-hand with:
- Being ranked in the “top 3 performers” in the state for 21 of 25 quality measures
- Better communication with patients
- Lower physician turnover rates
As one of the ThedaCare physicians says:
“It’s important to remember that this is a manufacturing process in its purest form, and health care is not manufacturing,” she said. “You have the inherent variability of patients, with all their complexities and nuances. They are not widgets; they are not cars. There’s a certain point at which you have to accept that variability and that the system won’t be as clean as you might like it. We shouldn’t get so focused on the process that we lose sight of our mission, our goals and our professionalism.”
Yes, a doctor’s office is not a car plant and a patient is not a widget. When keeping the purpose and mission in mind, healthcare organizations continue to prove they can use Lean principles and methods to improve patient care.
The article also discusses the use of daily huddles (pictured above), “Rapid Improvement Events,” and other Lean management practices. Check it out and be sure to see their photo slide show.
About LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Customer Success for the technology company KaiNexus. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.