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Lean MD Office on NM TV

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Local doctors cut stress

Below is a video from an Albuquerque TV news station, visiting a doctor's office that was implementing Lean. I wish I could take credit… it was work done by someone I know, actually.

The video shows one of the MDs talking about Lean — how their days are less frustrating and more predictable now. They are seeing more patients per hour, thanks to waste reduction, and are not having to stay as late. In the video, you see they have implemented 5S, visual management, and a kanban system for room supplies.

I've done similar work in a family practice setting. It's a pretty “process-free” environment, before Lean. That's not a knock on the staff. They cared a lot and worked really hard. They just hadn't been taught things that engineers or process people might take for granted. When problems occurred (such as running out of supplies in a room or not being able to find a thermometer), the staff relied on working harder and being heroic rather than fixing the underlying process (or putting one in place).

We worked to standardize the setup of the different exam rooms (supplies and materials). We set up a kanban system for the restocking of supplies to the points of use and ordering of supplies from the parent hospital and vendors. We also worked on Standardized Work for the front desk and nursing staff to support the physicians. Lean works in a setting like that, especially when you involve those doing the work.

I cringed a bit when the reporter/anchor said the 5S practices (such as tape outlines) might seem “a little retentive.” Putting tape down to mark where your water bottle should go on the desk might be a bit much.

But the reporter acknowledged that Lean was making life better for the office staff and physicians (and you'd presume for the patients, as well, as the length of a visit fell 84%…. from reducing waiting time, I'm sure).

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is an anthology titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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