Software Siren Songs in Healthcare
Where there's a problem, there's always a software solution (and salesperson) waiting around the corner. The above story reminds me of the manufacturing world…. in factories, we're told if we want to reduce cycle time, to reduce WIP, to “get lean”, all we need is the latest software from Vendor X. That topic has been written about ad nauseum by many on this blog.
This mindset is also seen in the lean healthcare world, where I am now working. Got patient delays? You need software!
Tracking patients electronically is the same idea of having “inventory visibility” in a factory. Just knowing where your inventory is doesn't help reduce the need for it. The technology is there and it works, for what it does, but how much does visibility help?
In this press release, the hospital supposedly had a 16% reduction in patient waiting time. Who knows how much was spent on software.
I've seen many many cases where patient waiting times can be reduced 30-50% through the implementation of lean methods.
My challenge to hospital leadership (as well as factory leadership)…. don't rely only on software solutions to fix your problems. More than likely, the real enemy is broken processes. Lean implementations fix processes and (when done right) really inspire people to continuous improvement and improving the workplace.
Software implementations rarely deliver as much. Software often is viewed as a one time fix. Lean builds skills and methods for true continuous improvement.
How much does this description remind you of manufacturing software?
The software in conjunction with infrared/RFID-based locating hardware provides real-time, wireless tracking of the location of all patients and mobile medical equipment. Patients and staff wear wireless badges which send infrared signals to sensors located throughout the department, waiting room and support areas. The Amelior EDTracker software uses a rules-based intelligence engine to translate interactions between patients, staff and equipment into insights on the location and the care status of each patient.
Ah yes, “rules-based intelligence engines”. We already have that…. it's called employee's brains. You can make the most of your employees' brains using lean.