Lean Consulting and Training


Healthcare Quality

I just read your article on implementing lean methods in healthcare. Personally I'm not fond of the idea. I don't want doctors to cut corners. If you convince the healthcare industry to use lean methods will it not result in lower quality care for patients? Or am I missing something?

Anonymous Submission October, 2005 : Posted with consent

Very good question. I am glad you submitted this question because it gives me the opportunity to more clearly explain the concept. One misconception regarding lean processes is that the major advantage is cost reduction. Lean processes do reduce costs. However, at the core of lean thinking is quality. The cost reductions are the result of eliminating waste. We eliminate nonvalue adding tasks. Research shows that quality is actually improved by 85% following the commitment to go lean. Quality is defined by the customer. For example, does waiting for more than an hour in a waiting room add any value to the patient's healthcare experience? This is but one type of waste we seek to eliminate. Contrary to popular belief, lean enterprise is not about cutting corners. In fact, it is a highly effective way to reduce costs without ever cutting corners. What we do "cut" from the system is all of the unnecessary activities and waste that contribute to the high cost of healthcare.

Again this is a great question. The interesting thing about lean methodology is that it enables the organization to reduce costs while drastically improving quality. It also creates a more enjoyable work environment for the employees.

Considering the rising costs of healthcare, I am truly excited to be a part of reducing costs and improving quality. Granted, this will be a lengthy transition, however, once implemented we will all receive better healthcare at a more affordable price.

Consider the possibilities. Imagine a healthcare system that provides outstanding care for patients, eliminates all non-value-adding tasks (such as waiting or redundant paperwork), and best of all, at a price that patients are happy with. I envision a patient visiting his/her family doctor, signing in, and being taken immediately to the examining room where he/she is seen immediately by the doctor. Does the waiting add any value to the patient's experience? No, so we eliminate it. In addition to an efficient process patients are correctly diagnosed every time.

Additionally we have put together a very simple pdf diagram that describes a basic office visit, common mistakes made while trying to improve the process, and a simple description of how lean techniques can be applied in healthcare in even the most basic of processes. Feel free to download the brief Lean Healthcare Scheduling Description. You can use this diagram as a visual aid for training with proper mention of sources, including the copyright information and url from which you downloaded the form. If you have difficulty viewing this form you may need to download adobe reader.

Is such a system possible? Absolutely! However, this will take decades to improve the entire healthcare system. Then again, the only obstacle is the mindset of those in healthcare and the culture. Once the commitment is made to implement lean processes in healthcare, we, as consultants, do the majority of the work. It requires only a decision to make that transition, and the willingness to learn and accept guidance.

Great question! Thank you.

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