Why Healthcare is Ripe for Lean

“Our Nation’s health service delivery systems face growing challenges to enhance quality while reducing costs. Lean/Toyota Production Systems (TPS) is a process redesign strategy developed in manufacturing that promises to help health care delivery systems meet these twin challenges.” – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.(1)

The High Cost of Inefficiencies

Process inefficiencies run deep in healthcare. Just walk into your doctor’s office, or local hospital, and you can see some of the inefficiencies rife within today’s Healthcare system. Think about the number of times you’ve been asked to fill out multiple forms, asking for the exact same information, even within the same hospital. This example is just one of many that the patient experiences and is merely the tip of the iceberg of inefficiencies. Some are driven by organizational culture and politics, some by regulation, and some by the departmental fragmentation that exists in any business setting.

Much attention is placed on automating and electronically capturing information about you, as a patient, and your medical history, insurance or other payer sources, conditions, diagnoses and treatment regimens. By all means, the increased usage of information systems to make healthcare delivery more efficient is a good thing. However, too often medical practices and hospitals purchase information systems with the intent to improve processes, but end up implementing the same-old, business-as-usual ways of doing things. Too often, systems implementations are spent reinventing the “old system’s way” rather than creating a better way which results in looking back and wondering why things have not improved post-implementation.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year in automating facets of healthcare delivery through new information systems. The real question then, is this… Was that system implementation worth the money, time, energy, upheaval and effort? Sure, keeping systems up to date, compliant with safety and regulatory rules and improving processing through technology is a must for any healthcare delivery organization. However, in conjunction with effective systems use, comes a need to improve processes and efficiency.

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