Let the Process Experts Decide
This isn't a “Lean” story, per se, but it still caught my eye. Hospital-acquired infections are a major problem throughout the world. As this commentary from The Independent points out:
Britain has the worst record of hospital infections in Europe, and patient surveys reveal that superbugs have overtaken waiting times as their prime source of concern. The situation could not go unchallenged.
Fair enough — it's a serious problem and it demands attention. The “solution” reminded me a of a recent rant from a specialist physician I saw back in the U.S. a month ago or so. He started complaining about all of the government interference in healthcare and he said “Every time there's legislation about medicine, they make it worse. They need to let doctors make the decisions, not the politicians.”
To be a cynic, a politician's job is to get re-elected. Are they always making decisions that are right for the community or for patients? Back to the article, where the Prime Minister got involved:
But as so often with this administration, new rules have been accompanied with a heavy dose of politically-motivated and unhelpful meddling. Last September, Gordon Brown announced that the 1,500 NHS hospitals in England would be subjected to a “deep clean”. It sounded good. This would involve clearing wards, washing walls and scrubbing behind radiators.
But there was a problem. There was no clinical evidence to suggest this was where effort ought to be directed. According to infection control experts, superbugs were being spread not by bacteria multiplying in neglected corners of wards, but by sloppy daily cleaning procedures and the failure of many medical staff to wash their hands properly. Yet the Prime Minister ploughed on anyway because the idea of a deep clean was deemed a way of communicating to the typical voter how seriously he was taking the problem of superbug infections. Most hospitals finished their deep clean three months ago and, as we can see from these latest figures, it has made very little difference to the standards of cleanliness in our wards.
Millions are being spent on efforts that “sound good” or “feel good” instead of doing what really works. Pretty lousy, huh? How do we get local hospitals to manage their “Standardized Work?” — That's the challenge. It's not a great revelation that hand hygiene is critical. How do we get people to follow good daily processes (for hand hygiene and room/equipment cleaning) instead of taking big splashy efforts that might not make a difference. Did the politicians ASK hospitals, executives or physicians, how to solve this problem or did they mandate a “solution?” Sounds like they should have done more asking.
The column concluded:
This is a lesson on how little is achieved and how much is wasted when politicians put the chase for favourable headlines above expert advice. It is not only our hospitals that urgently need to clean up their act.