Here is about five minutes of video (no longer available, sadly) of Paul O'Neill (former CEO of Alcoa and former Treasury Secretary) talking about the power of Lean healthcare on CNBC.
O'Neill talks about leading organizations like Virginia Mason, Intermountain, ThedaCare, and others who have PROVEN that Lean methods (“or the Toyota Production System or Deming or whatever flavor of that you like”) can improve quality and reduce costs.
Check out my earlier podcast with O'Neill… but read on for more on his CNBC appearance.
O'Neill said, “This is not a debatable thing, it's a doable thing.”
One of the hosts asked, “Is this like a Six Sigma thing?” and O'Neill sort of brushed that off. It's not a Six Sigma thing.
He talked about last Friday's USA Today story about the increase of C. diff infections in hospitals (causing 30,000 deaths a year in the U.S.) and how “it's unforgivable… we know how to prevent that… but it's very fundamental stuff. So, all of our policy conversations up here… instead of paying attention to how we can simultaneously reduce cost in a monumental way and improve outcomes for the population… I have tried hard to get any politician of any note to be interested in fostering the pursuit of excellence in health and medical care.”
He's tried to get Republican VP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, who is 100 miles from ThedaCare, to go and see (sounds like he hasn't).
O'Neill talks about the need to challenge the conventional wisdom that being better than the national average is OK. We need to refine processes to improve care. We can save a lot of lives.
How to do this “is published, it's out there.”
The host asks, “So the healthcare personnel need to wash their hands more?”
O'Neill: “That would be a really good idea.”
The host says, “These all sound like things where you have to hire a great manager, and you need the manager to hire people who are willing to go by the book.”
That CNBC bias isn't surprising… they are the network of the heroic CEO who did it all her or himself in a company. The host is blaming the people (managers and staff) instead of understanding this is a systems problem. Good management matters, but great managers will be defeated by a bad system.
The host assumes there is a bell curve, where some people just won't do what's necessary… instead of understanding that everybody can be excellent when we have great systems and processes.
O'Neill says, “95% of the places in the country aren't doing the things we know how to do to improve.”
The host asks if we have laws that say you have to wash your hands, and O'Neill correctly points out we don't.
Ah, if we could just legislate quality.
The host mutters, “I think laws would work” (that's an ignorant statement). They would not work
Sort of like we have laws to prevent financial sector fraud and malfeasance? How's that working for us?
What does O'Neill think would work? He thinks transparency is important. He proposed to President Obama's people that he do this:
- He gets on national TV and (“instead of demonizing the insurance companies”) and say “next week, I'm going to order the VA hospitals and the U.S.-based military hospitals to post on the internet every morning at 8 a.m. the newly identified hospital-acquired infections….”
And he got cut off by a commercial break…
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