Lean at a Wisconsin Children’s Hospital


Children's Hospital is going lean – The Business Journal of Milwaukee:

Wisconsin is a state that seems to have a disproportionate amount of Lean activity (as does Iowa). There are many good Lean manufacturers and ThedaCare is often held up as an example of a leading Lean hospital.

Here's a good story about Lean success at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin:

Simple changes such as putting casts on patients in exam rooms rather than in a separate area of the clinic, stocking carts with necessary supplies and keeping frequently used forms in each exam room have saved the doctors and nurses time on tasks unrelated to patients, said Dr. Channing Tassone, orthopedic surgeon at Children's Hospital and assistant professor of pediatric orthopedics at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Children's Hospital officials say the project is a proven success, with wait times in all areas of the Greenway clinic down 71 percent. Before lean, patients spent an average of 38 minutes during their visit in exam rooms waiting to see a physician. The average is now 11 minutes.

“We've gone from chaos to organized chaos,” Tassone said. “We're able to see more patients, but it feels easier than ramping up the workload should feel.”

From chaos to organized chaos…. at least that's a start, and it's a sign that they realize you're not “done” with Lean in a short period of time. It's an ongoing process of continuous improvement. The simple change of doing casts in the exam room helps avoid a handoff of the patient to a different area — and handoffs typically lead to an additional wait. Stocking each room with needed supplies and forms might seem very very basic to an outsider… but it's often a huge opportunity because the hospital hasn't been taught how to run an effective materials system — kanban can be a huge help in cases like this.

Children's is beginning to expand lean practices to the hospital's operating rooms and other programs including the Herma Heart Center, the neurosciences center, emergency room, neonatal intensive care unit and the pediatric intensive care unit.

I hope we keep reading about more improvements there, and at other Children's hospitals. These Children's hospitals are truly special places — I can't think of patients any more deserving of the improvements that Lean methods can help bring, nor can I think of staffs who more urgently want to make such improvements. Don't forget that these are great organizations to donate to (cash or toys), if you're so inclined.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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