Patient Participation in Lean Renews Her Faith in Health Care


Here is a nice story that's been in my blog's “to write about” inventory since late October: “Participation in Lean events has renewed my faith in health care.”

The piece is written by Heather Thiessen and she was able to participate in an RPIW (Rapid Process Improvement Workshop) in the Saskatoon Health Region in Canada – in particular a “3P” or Lean Design event. See these previous posts about Lean healthcare in Saskatoon and follow Trish Livingstone on Twitter, who tweets about their work up there.

From Heather's piece:

Frankly, I was skeptical when I was first approached. I knew the health region was committed to making things better for patients and families. But would I really be treated as an equal member of the improvement team? Would people not only listen to my suggestions, but actually act on them?

It's definitely a “best practice” to include patients in Lean improvement work. Having an actual patient participating helps avoid the trap where people think they know what a patient wants. Assumptions can often be incorrect. In one workshop I ran with a hospital, they chose to have a staff member play the role of patient because she had a child who had been a patient. I pushed back a bit, but they insisted… it didn't work really well because the staff member knew too much about how the hospital worked to truly represent the parent point of view. Having a patient participate in Lean improvement work not only gets the direct patient perspective, but they can also play the role of “fresh eyes,” which is an important role in process improvement.

Heather was thrilled that everybody checked their titles at the door, as people often say:

I loved this, because it meant that for that whole week, we were all at the same level. We all worked hard toward achieving a common goal: to design the best Adult and Children's Emergency Department possible – one that would be good for not only patients and families, but also the staff who will work there.   At the end of the week, I felt so proud to have been part of this wonderful experience…  I am now a believer in these processes our hospitals are using to make things better for patients and families.

What is your hospital or health system doing to directly involve real patients, going beyond the vague idea of “the patient”?

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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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