Ottawa, Ontario (PRWEB) October 19, 2007
Lean, as it is traditionally known in manufacturing, is a continuous improvement program that focuses on adding value to the client/patient through the elimination of waste from a process. This allows the continuous flow of materials and information within that process thus reducing the time it takes for a unit of work to transition through that process. In healthcare this equates to shorter wait times and better service without adding more staff or equipment/space.
Other benefits include improved quality and patient care, staff safety, a reduction in stress experienced by healthcare providers and support personnel, and a significant reduction in the cost of providing the service. Lean Healthcare Inc. clients have achieved significant improvements in many categories.
The following case studies are typical of some of those changes:
A behavioral health department had a five-week backlog of patients who had called the department to obtain an appointment. If you called for an appointment today you would have to wait 5 weeks just to know the date of your appointment. This was causing considerable stress with the patients and with the clinic staff.
An Enterprise Value Stream Mapping™ and analysis exercise of the appointment process showed many handoffs and interfaces, stops and starts, reprioritizing and duplication of effort in what can best be described as a triage environment -- there were 85 patients on the list waiting to be assigned an appointment.
The Result: Within six weeks of starting their Lean Implementation, the team had reduced the backlog to one week.
Initial Lean applications at most hospitals have started within a Lab environment. Although Lean has a place in any organization and type of environment, Labs have been seen as a good area to start. Healthcare administrators see Lab processes as those that most resemble manufacturing type processes.
Lean Healthcare Inc. recently met with a Core Lab team and introduced them to the Value Stream perspective. Organization and setup of the lab was still based on traditional, functional, silo thinking - Chemistry lab, Hematology lab, Coag lab etc. The Value Stream perspective drove a new way of organizing the Lab that truly broke down the silos and integrated the work to better reflect what the customer needed. This created a fully functioning and responsive Core Lab.
Lead time or Turnaround Time (TAT) in a lab is often the most critical measure of success. Another critical issue is the variation or the inconsistency in reporting. Waste elimination using Lean techniques was used to reduce TAT, variation and inconsistency.
The Results: By focusing on improved flow, labs have discovered that they have eliminated waste in their processes with a significant impact on cost. Reported numbers show a 25-30% reduction in labor cost per test. Other improvements include:
- All routine CBC turnaround times reduced to less than 20 mins.
- All differential times reduced to less than 40 mins.
- 38% improvement in phlebotomy collections while volumes actually increased.
Laboratory Specimen Receiving
Lean Healthcare Inc. worked with the supervisor and his team on improving the delivery and measurement in his area. One of the benefits of Lean Labs is the interaction between all the departments. As part of their Future State Implementation Plan, the team met with their internal customers and determined when the samples would be required to meet the patient demand. From this analysis, they set up a schedule and began delivering samples in smaller batches.
The supervisor developed a visual method for measuring the team's performance against patient demand. The team designed this measure so that it was visible and understood by everyone inside and outside of the area. With this measurement, lab personnel can tell if they are ahead or behind at any time throughout the day.
The results: Within the first week of smaller batches, the end-to-end process for some of the tests had improved by 25%. With the implementation of the smaller batches the throughput of the department improved as well as the capacity. The lab is receiving 75% more product, with 33% fewer staff and delivering the last specimens an hour earlier.
As we know, healthcare organizations are faced with a very real dilemma of rising costs and the need to provide healthcare services to an ever demanding, ever growing population needing assistance. Many initiatives have been undertaken over the last number of years with good intention but relatively limited success. Healthcare organizations are realizing how Lean can work for them and the results shown above prove that Lean does work.
Tom Jessome, Director Marketing
Lean Healthcare Inc.