Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Leaning together in North Carolina

Here's a heartening story from Alexandra Wilson Picci at HealthLeaders Media, entitled "NC Rural Hospitals Lean Together to Zap Waste."  An excerpt:

With the help of the North Carolina Hospital Association, a consulting firm, and a grant from the Duke Endowment, Caldwell Memorial Hospital teamed with four other hospitals to learn how to apply lean management principles. The hospitals shared ideas and resources, including funding and consulting services, and attended each other's learning events.

This is a great way to mitigate the expenses of a Lean program and share the enthusiasm.  As you have seen in examples on this blog, a portion of the Lean approach consists of rapid improvement events.  These focus on specific value streams within the organization, mapping out the entire work flow, identifying areas of waste, and experimenting with a new process. Here's a wonderful quote about how this kind of employee engagement works:

"It's remarkable to watch employees sit down and map out issues and discover possible solutions in a team environment and then have the wherewithal and the authority to implement these changes and see if they work," said Edgar Haywood III, president and CEO at Dosher Memorial Hospital, which is part of the new Eastern North Carolina Rural Hospital Lean Collaborative.  

Caldwell Memorial CEO Laura Easton added a key point:

"This is not something that you can delegate to one of your executives," she said. "I think Lean is only really appropriate if the CEO is committed to changing the way they operate the organization, and learning too, and being part of running their organization in a new and different way."

She is right, of course. As I have noted, like physical systems in which entropy takes over, consistently applied energy is necessary to maintain the process improvement system that we call Lean.  Without commitment from the top, the process will wither.  Congratulations to this group of CEOs for walking the walk.


Cathleen said...

From Facebook:

Thanks for highlighing a rural hospital story.

Lynn Nicholas said...

I’m glad that you’re continuing to beat the drum on the value of Lean principles in hospitals. Hospitals that have adapted Lean practices have been able to save millions of dollars in productivity. At a recent event, Southcoast Health System’s CEO, Keith Hovan, spoke about how adopting lean principles saved $8 million in one year for their system. To help our hospitals here in Massachusetts, over the past year the Massachusetts Hospital Association has held intensive, 8-week “Lean in Healthcare Certificate Programs” hosted at Lahey Clinic, MGH, and Emerson Hospital. Over 70 hospital employees have participated to date. Students from hospitals all over the Commonwealth have worked together on lean projects at these hospitals while also receiving comprehensive training on best practices and continuous improvement methodologies they can take the knowledge back to their own hospitals. Our next 8-week Lean in Healthcare Certificate Program will be held at Milford Regional Medical Center beginning September 27th.

To keep the learning’s growing MHA also helped facilitate the start-up of a Lean Networking Group headed up by hospital staffers from hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. This group meets regularly and is open all hospital personnel (you can contact for more information). Despite the dire financial climate in healthcare currently, lean practices represent a bright light with real potential to help all hospitals implement greater efficiency into their operations. So thanks for blogging on this topic!

Anonymous said...

Just have to get my counter-plug in here; that one does not implement Lean principles just to save money and become more efficient. As Paul has shown in his innumerable previous posts on this methodology, it also yields more consistently delivered high quality and safe patient care.
I know physicians are being asked to consider cost in the delivery of care these days, and rightly so. However, if administrations want to be sure of engaging their interest, highlighting a lower complication and error rate and lower mortalities is the ticket to do it.

nonlocal MD