The One Where @TheNerdyNurse Talks About the Power of #Lean in Healthcare


It's one thing to hear Lean professionals or specialists talking about the power of this methodology to improve healthcare. To me, it's not just theory, it's something I've seen in practice.

Sure, there are many engineers and former business people working in healthcare now, and I think that's great for a number of reasons – bringing relevant experiences, outside perspectives and all.

That said, I think some of the most powerful testimonials for Lean and continuous improvement come from medical professionals who have come around to see Lean benefit their own work and their own patients. I think the videos that Joe Swartz and I made with his colleagues at Franciscan St. Francis illustrate this well. Lean isn't just

I recently learned about this “Who Cares?” podcast episode hosted by Care Logistics with their guest Brittney Wilson, aka “The Nerdy Nurse.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 11.23.21 AM

Brittney first wrote this blog post, which (like my similar article) was done in partnership with Toyota. I think the blog post led to the podcast.

What Can Healthcare Learn from Toyota?

I'm going to be a guest on an upcoming episode of the “Who Cares? Hospital Talk” podcast. It's funny to me that the podcast is called “Who Cares?” in the sense that the question can be a positive term… who cares? Nurses care for patients. I care about nurses and patients, etc.

It's also a dismissive question. “Who cares about Lean?” I sometimes say this… “who cares about implementing Lean?” That's a means to an end. I care about issues such as improving patient safety and quality, reducing waiting times, improving the patient experience, and creating a better workplace. Staff might very understandably say “Who cares?”

In the podcast, The Nerdy Nurse does a great job of explaining why nurses and patients should care about Lean:

  • Less wasted time, for example, searching for bladder scanners
  • Less waiting time for patients (as Toyota helped UCLA Harbor Medical Center with)
  • A more purpose-driven, caring environment for everyone
  • Lean helps us understand that the problems are mainly caused by the system, not by bad people

In her blog post, I'm jealous that she got the chance to interview some of the key players from UCLA Harbor Medical Center, Dr. Pradeep Prasad, Chief of Ophthalmology and Susan Black, Chief Improvement Officer. Maybe I'll try to do a podcast with one or the both of them.

One Q&A exchange:

What would you tell other physicians who are apprehensive about productivity and workflow analysis?

It's understandable to be apprehensive.  As physicians, we are taught about disease pathology and patient care, but we aren't taught about the business/operational side of healthcare and the tremendous impact it can have on the care we deliver (although this is starting to change as more medical schools/residency programs are including it in their educational curriculum).  The concepts and vocabulary can be intimidating.  However… (read the rest of the answer here).

I understand the apprehension about Lean and new methods. My final thought is that it frustrates me when people in healthcare are apprehensive or cynical about improvement even being possible. We can do better… and we need to do better. And we need to everybody involved. I thank Brittany for expressing that in a very clear way.

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