Keen to Be Lean in Healthcare
Are you waiting with bated breath for Washington to fix healthcare? Me either. Regardless of your opinion on the pending legislation, there is still a problem. The soaring costs and staggering problems in healthcare still require us to fix the process. And that can’t be done from Washington.
CFO Magazine recently published Keen to Be Lean which chronicles a big of lean in healthcare. It does a nice job quoting LeanBlog.org’s Mark Graban. But it seems to focus lean in healthcare on cost reduction. It’s not the first time this mistake has been made, nor will it be the last.
Over 10 years ago, lean in healthcare got its real start when the Big 3 sent in continuous improvement experts to fix processes. Now their lean efforts were no prize, mostly because they missed the cultural changes in lean. But they were darn good at process improvement. One person they asked to help was my co-founder of the Lean Learning Center, Andy Carlino.
The argument was that healthcare was now the most expensive part of the car. It still is. And it’s worse in the U.S., as well articulated in John Shook’s column. So people went in to reduce costs. Unfortunately, costs were about 5th of people’s priority lists, because “we’re caregivers.” It’s very hard to get people’s attention to change their ways when your priorities aren’t matched.
The lesson learned – if you really wanted to get people’s attention, focus on what matters to them. That is delivering care. The Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative, which uses lean and we helped in their early days, calls their program Perfecting Patient Care. And it turns out that improved patient care quality actually reduces costs.
Didn’t we learn that lesson in manufacturing 20 years ago? I thought so.
I believe healthcare professionals are some of the most caring of any profession. I also believe, that with the exception of the military, they are the most highly trained. Good intentions + good training should equal great results, right?
But bad processes beat good people every single time.
Regardless of what happens in Washington, I know this. We have a lot of work to do to design, manage, and improve the work of the healthcare professionals. And Washington can’t do that for all the physicians, nurses, assistants, pharmacists, technicians, and administrators that suffer from bad processes.