Going Lean in Healthcare

Lean management principles have been used effectively within manufacturing companies for many decades now, particularly in Japan, with such lean principles being successfully applied to the delivery of healthcare in this country as well, says the Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Lean thinking starts with a mission to drive out waste in order for work to add value and serve the customers’ needs. It’s critical to identify value-added and non-value-added steps in all processes as part of the progressive journey toward lean operations. But in order for lean principles to form a stable foundation, leaders first have to create an organizational culture that embraces lean thinking. 

This commitment has to come from the very top of the organization and trickle down, with all staff being involved in redesigning processes to improve flow while reducing waste. While healthcare differs from manufacturing in many ways, there are also many similarities. Whether building a car in a factory or providing healthcare for a patient in a hospital setting, workers have to rely on many complex processes to accomplish tasks and offer value to the patient or customer. Wasting money, time, or supplies will, quite simply, decrease value. 

Often times, this can be achieved through 5S workplace organization and Six Sigma consulting.

Results of Lean in Healthcare

Generating real change in the healthcare industry starts with minimizing disruption and getting results quickly where it matters most: in patient care. Every single stage of hospital operations is vital to patient health. Incito’s Lean, 5S workplace organization training, and Six Sigma consulting processes, for example, can overhaul all stages of your healthcare practice, large or small. 

With a lean approach, you can: 

  • Slash how long takes to process and visit with a patient, of particular concern in the ER
  • Reduce time-consuming rework within clinical diagnosis approvals between the insurance company and healthcare provider
  • Streamline the process for patient reimbursement claims
  • Fill prescriptions right the first time
  • Improve nurse scheduling
  • Improve hospital communications and supply chain procedures for supplies and equipment
  • Boost hospital and clinical maintenance
  • Improve OR procedures and scheduling
  • Manage the flow of information inter-departmentally
  • Optimize performance of all critical departments and service lines

Furthermore, the application of lean principles to healthcare highlights the areas that add value from the patient’s perspective, as well as what does not. It’s important to remember that value is defined by the patient. Any activity or task that is not a value-added step from the patient’s perspective should be seen as wasteful and summarily eliminated. This will improve process flows in the healthcare setting, relieve staff of the extra burden of wasteful work, and optimize the overall patient experience.

Lean management will also reduce workload for staff, with lean tools enabling them to offer the highest quality output yet with the least amount of work. A lean healthcare organization can fairly quickly realize improved job satisfaction levels from staff who no longer have to put in additional hours at the end of each workday that were caused by inefficient and wasteful processes.

Lean Healthcare Is…

  • A way to promote a culture of continuous improvement. Indeed, a lean management system becomes cornerstone to a culture that places the #1 priority on the patient. 
  • A way to implement processes that are value-added from the patient perspective, while eliminating those that aren’t. You have to walk in the patient’s shoes, see each step with your own eyes and gain an understanding of what the patient encounters every time they visit a healthcare provider, i.e., waiting for long periods of time or having to travel across the facility to locate ancillary services.
  • A way to align leaders and staff around one shared vision. A lean management system, when adopted by an entire organization, equips leaders with the methods and tools they need to lead a diverse team of employees.
  • A way to empower frontline staff to drive improvement efforts while respecting their expertise as those who have to do the work. Lean leaders, in effect, demonstrate respect by moving away from the role of problem-solver and by taking on the role of problem-framer.

In the end, cutting waste from healthcare delivery is not only a smart idea, it’s an urgent imperative. When you employ lean management in your healthcare delivery model, you are doing your part to make this possible within your organization.

Contact Incito Consulting Group

Ready to go lean in healthcare? Just contact us at 866-697-LEAN or send us a message online. One of our services is lean leadership development, and we welcome you to learn more about it.

Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation.

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