Monday, December 10, 2012

Who needs a waiting room? (Part 3)

In a post below, I report on Dr. Sami Bahri's use of Lean principles to improve patient flow in his clinic.  In their comments, Sami and others explain more about how this is done.  Upon reflection, I need to issue a caveat:

You cannot just extract Sami's recipe for scheduling appointments and expect it to work  The cultural and thinking shift that he led for his staff is really central. Having now watched a lot of medical people in hospitals and outpatient settings, I have seen a tendency to try to take shortcuts, not knowing the depth of what is involved.   As I have said before, you don't "do" Lean:

Lean is not a program.  It is a long-term philosophy of corporate leadership and organization that is based, above all, on respect shown to front-line staff.  There are two essential aspects, training front-line workers to be empowered and encouraged to call out problems on the "factory floor," and training managers to understand that their job is to serve those front-line workers by knowing what is going on on the front lines and responding in real time (when problems are fresh) to the call-outs.   Yes, there are all kinds of methods and tools and terminology, and as Virginia Mason Medical Center's Sarah Patterson notes, "Lean provides a common language for process improvement." She also reminded us, though, that it is a focus on process, not on the outcomes.  The idea is to "build key features into processes that are waste free, continuous flow."  To do this we need to "grow leaders-- to respect, develop, and challenge your people."

This may scare some of you away, but it's important to know there is no silver bullet.  This is hard work and needs a strong and steady commitment from senior clinical and administrative leaders.

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