Yes, We Can… but by What Method?
I guess this is a “mashup” of sorts… between Dr. W. Edwards Deming and President Obama…
The President said yesterday, in his inauguration speech:
“We will … wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.”
I absolutely agree that we can do both — improve QUALITY and reduce COST in healthcare. Look at what hospitals like ThedaCare are doing in this regard. Simple things like checklists are reducing surgical errors, which is the right thing to do for the patients and also reduces costs.
These goals are important. It's critical to realize that there aren't necessarily tradeoffs between cost and quality. By improving processes (in any industry), quality and cost will both improve. Better quality cost less.
So when faced with goals, Dr. Deming would famously ask “by what method??” It's not enough to have goals.
President Obama cited “technology.” Technology won't be enough. Electronic Medical Records alone won't help. Technology like robots in the pharmacy might actually improve quality, but at a higher cost.
The “technology” that we need to remember is Lean. Process improvement methodologies can be considered a technology, right? It's not a silver bullet either, but can we use Lean to help transform healthcare in the United States? Yes, we can.
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