Hospitals and Lean
Here is an overview and general awareness article from the St. Louis paper. It's always nice to see lean (and lean healthcare) in the general media.
The goal is to map out and retool processes to save time and money while improving patient satisfaction. “What we're trying to do is look at every component of the patients' experience,” said Steve Lipstein, chief executive of BJC HealthCare. “One of the things that frustrates people about the American health care system is how long they have to wait for it.”
The processes examined can be as specific as how many steps a nurse must take to reach a medicine cart or a patient's chart.
The article is right — lean in healthcare is about reducing waste from the patient perspective (waiting time, errors, and cost) and from the employee perspective. Lean is about improving service, not just reducing cost, and the article gets that right. The article, unfortunately, misses the quality component of lean, making sure things get done right the first time.
One of my pet peeves is how the media downplays the complexity of manufacturing and we see it yet again. Yes, there is some sensitivity required to bring practices in from outside the healthcare world — hospitals ARE different than factories. But, especially from the people side, hospitals are more like factories than not.
The article says:
Redford and others said applying manufacturing techniques to health care requires some finesse. Standardization, for example, is a theme throughout lean manufacturing and Six Sigma.
However, setting up uniform processes is more difficult in health care because it involves unique individuals rather than identical widgets. So the focus is on making sure patients receive evidence-based medicine, or treatments and tests research has proven work best.
“We're not making every car alike â€” every patient is different,” Redford said. “That's the negative. The positive is there's so much opportunity to make improvements.”
How many of you work in factories that simply crank out “identical widgets?” Even if you work at Toyota, you're not cranking out identical cars. Is there more variation in terms of the healthcare “product”? Sure, but that doesn't mean that all of underlying hospital processes have as much variation as there is in the product (the patient).
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