Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lean Processes in Healthcare

The difference between 'lean processes' as practiced in a manufacturing plant and that practiced in a service organisation such as a hospital, is that the manufacturer seeks to align order/stock inputs with streamlined production processes so as to eliminate wastage and reduce stock and labour costs. A service organisation, on the other hand does not have a 'production process' and therefore needs to shift its focus away from cost reduction to meeting the needs of multiple stakeholder groups.

I believe a core tenent of lean processes in a hospital should be 'do no harm'. This means the process should not result in any forced reduction of staff numbers and patient care must not be compromised. In fact the opposite should apply. Lean processes should seek to reduce workplace stressors upon staff while providing patients with the highest quality care at the least amount of pain and inconvenience. I also believe lean processes will become increasingly critical as labour shortages force hospitals, especially rural providers, to achieve more with less staff.

Case studies from a variety of hospitals that have adopted lean process show reductions in wastage, less time involved in non-core activities, reduced processing times and reduced waiting times. Imagine if Government were to focus on education designed to keep people out of hospital while hospital staff developed lean processes - it is possible this combination may lead to lower operating costs, improved utilisation of facilities and reduced waiting times.

It is time for hospitals to have another look at Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement and lean processes. Each of these can be aligned as a service delivery process and can also be aligned with existing accreditation and risk management processes.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
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1 comment:

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