Sunday, November 11, 2012

Coffee breaks demonstrate Lean essentials

The essence of Lean is to have a focus on the needs of the customer and, when problems become evident in the workplace, to think about the obstacles and apply the scientific method to invent incremental improvements.  Such change originates with the front-line staff, but it is the job of leaders to encourage an environment in which this is encouraged.

An example arose recently at Jeroen Bosch hospital in the Netherlands.  It was the brainchild of Jeanne Smith, whose job includes serving coffee to patients on the wards.  You see her here. 

Jeanne was hearing complaints from patients about the temperature of the coffee.  It was highly variable, ranging from properly hot to less so to just warm.  She conducted a root cause analysis as she walked through the wards and noticed that coffee stored in the larger thermos containers stayed hot longer than the coffee served from the smaller containers.  (The greater thermal mass of the larger container held the temperature better.)  So, the solution was simply to use the larger containers.

Immediately, the complaints disappeared, as the coffee was served at a uniform temperature throughout the wards.

Now, admittedly, this is not an item of high clinical importance, but it is an indication of patient satisfaction.  After all, if you are going to offer coffee, why not make sure it is the correct temperature?

Jeanne's improvement won first prize in the poster portion of the hospital's Quality and Safety Day last week. Her poster title was "Dit is andere koffie!"  ("This is different coffee!")  CEO Willy Spaan said, "This is just the kind of sense of initiative and constant improvement that we are trying to encourage."


Anonymous said...

I know for a fact how much the Dutch loooove their coffee, so I can imagine how much this means to customer satisfaction!

Anonymous said...

Too often in health care we think we have to do something big and bodacious to 'improve'. Any one who's ever been a hospital patient, including me, can tell you otherwise. This example shows the little things matter just as much and, equally as important, solving the little things gives you more confidence for the big ones.