Measuring Lean Results In Healthcare

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Over the last couple years, we have been working with Healthcare organizations to adapt Lean to their complex processes in laboratory and hospital environments. Predictably, there was much skepticism from Clinicians and administrators alike - and rightly so. They were perfectly justified in asking - ‘how does a thinking that grew mainly out of the automotive industry apply to the healthcare environment?'

The answer is, ‘it applies perfectly’.

But giving an answer like that does not (and should not) convince all healthcare providers to blindly accept Lean and charge forward in the process transformation.

It took a few very courageous and visionary leaders to step forward and attempt applications within their environments - even if they were still a little (or a lot) skeptical.

Within a matter of a few weeks, the skepticism faded and the results began to appear. It works! And who would have believed that in a scientific profession there would be such a vast amount of opportunity to remove ‘non-value’ or waste.

The ‘non-value’ activities were not the people trying to do something wrong. In fact, the people were just working at trying to provide the best service, both in quality and turnaround time. The barrier was the existing ‘system’. It forced them to do things, which actually hindered them from providing their clients with the best service.

Once we applied Lean, and removed the non-value added activities, they found they were able to respond and serve their clients faster and better. In fact, they could respond to more clients while using the same number of people and equipment. The result was higher satisfaction for the patients/clients and for the staff while lowering their costs to provide the service.

While none of these healthcare cases have achieved perfection - their staff have moved closer to it and they have discovered a structured and practical method for attaining the level of service they and their clients desire and expect.

Here are some recent examples of typical results:

MRI processing time
20% increase in patients per day

Elimination of entire processing areas
Processing done in one lab instead of two without any new equipment expenditures.

Waiting Times
Found that techs in x-ray areas were waiting for up to 30% of their time, now they can use their time more efficiently and service the patient faster.

Eliminated overtime by reducing the batch sizes and creating flow.

Reduced lead-time for test results from 8 hours to 2-3 hours by decreasing batches and eliminating waste.

Delivery personnel were spending most of their time walking (up to 50%) to deliver specimens. A new schedule significantly reduced motion waste.

Equipment Uptime
Improved equipment uptime - On average 3 pieces of equipment down per week. Now through the use of TPM, they haven't had any down time in 8 weeks.

Space Savings
Using 5S, one lab freed up enough space to add three more needed stations without increasing existing floor space.

Processing Improvement
One area doubled their processing volume with marginal increase in staff and has sustained it for the last 6 months.

Rework Elimination
Originally 66% rework - now virtually none.

These results are proof that Lean works in Healthcare and are motivating Lean Advisors Inc. (LEAD)® to focus their energies towards teaching and implementing Lean with the goal to transform the Healthcare sector. We are adapting the technical concepts and changing the existing culture throughout the organizations we work with in order for them to provide better and faster care while improving the quality and decreasing the cost of providing that service.

Larry Coté is well known for his penetrating analysis and creative energy. He was with the Lean Enterprise Institute in Boston for almost two years as C. O. O. /E. V. P. He was the Founder and President of the Lean Enterprise Institute Canada.

Over the years, Larry has worked with 100's of companies at various stages of their Lean journey in many different business sectors. Larry has expertise in Toyota Production System concepts, diagnostics and assessment of Lean readiness. He works with the corporate leaders to develop effective plans for transforming organizations using Lean and adapting it to their particular culture.

Larry Cote
Lean Advisors Inc.

Lean Advisors Inc. (LEAD) provides Lean Training And Lean Implementation support to organizations of all sizes and sectors including healthcare, office, service, manufacturing, mining, aerospace, food processing, high tech.


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