Lean Health Care? It Works! (Still)
Here is a piece from 2003, still incredibly relevant. There is a great story of how lean methods, implemented properly, are good for all stakeholders — the patients, doctors, other employees, and the hospitals in general.
“At the Community Medical Center in Missoula, Mont., Orthopedic Surgeon Doug Woolley was frustrated. A bottleneck in the recovery room limited to four the number of total joint replacements he could do each week; he figured he had time to easily do one more.He asked Cindy Jimmerson, a nurse turned medical researcher who works with the hospital to implement lean, for help. “So we did our observation,” says Jimmerson. “We observed very good nurses working very hard and saw a bunch of system problems — little tiny things that they work around without even thinking.
“We found three or four things that were not too big that we could [improve] — things like posting somebody's beeper number in an obvious place, so they didn't call somebody else to call somebody else. We made those changes very quickly and tried them out the next Monday.” The result? They reduced time in the recovery room from 90 minutes to 62 minutes. “Over four patients that gave us two more hours, which was more than enough time to recover another patient,” says Jimmerson.”
As Deming always told us, the last thing we need is everybody doing their best and working their hardest in isolation. Instead of fighting problems and instituting workarounds (“where is that phone number again???), we need to fix systemic problems. This message reinforced in the DVD “Good News… How Hospitals Heal Themselves.”
I have seen this so many times in my year in healthcare — people are trying their hardest, but they only know fire fighting and bandaids or workarounds. Teaching them how to solve root causes and creating an environment where problems can be fixed for good is very powerful.
It's a long article, but please take a look. While the healthcare world is learning a ton from the manufacturing sector, I would really like to encourage folks in the manufacturing world to read about and learn from the good lean hospitals and lean healthcare stories out there. Share the ideas and lessons with your colleagues and see how it inspires you to lead lean efforts where you are.