Lowering Healthcare Costs without lowering Quality Standards through adopting Lean Thinking

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Are we worried that current pressures to reduce expenditure in Healthcare will impact on the quality of service that is offered to patients? Absolutely we are!

In an effort to significantly reduce and stabilise expenditure without affecting quality standards, Healthcare organisations all over the world are looking to Lean Thinking and Principles to reduce waste and maintain the standards that patients expect and deserve.

Lean Thinking strives to identify and eliminate wasteful activities in core processes, especially in the areas are patient pathways and administrative processes. The term ‘Lean’ is used because it tries to use less human effort, space, capital investment, materials and, perhaps most importantly, time between the patient appointment and discharge.

The key to Lean Thinking is process management. Good hospitals get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes. Other hospital systems get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes.

Many facilities suffer from the same types if wastes, and many of us have encountered these over and over again: redundant capture of information on patient admission; multiple records of patient information; excess supplies stored in multiple locations; time spent looking for charts; long waiting queues; continuous back-tracking of movement among medical staff; time spent waiting for equipment, lab results and x-rays and time spent dealing with complaints about services that are stretched partly because of systems failures.

Implementing a number of high impact changes using the principles of Lean Thinking would produce dramatic cost and efficiency improvements for our healthcare system and generate wider acceptance of new methodologies.

  • Improving patient flow by improving access to key diagnostic tests could save thousands of weeks of unnecessary patient waiting times. The root cause of a lot of our problems is the mismatch between the variation in demand and the variation in capacity;
  • Managing the variations in patient discharge – thereby reducing length of stay – would release bed days;
  • Managing variation in the patient admission process would cut the number of operations postponed each year;
  • Applying a systematic approach to care for people with long-term conditions would prevent numbers of emergency admissions to hospitals and;
  • Treating day surgery as the norm for elective procedures would free up bed capacity, thus reducing waiting times.

Australian organisations are continuing to show great interest in Lean training, which demonstrates an appetite to embrace the Lean revolution.

When starting out on your Lean journey, it is important to communicate and train all your people in the basic fundamentals and the reasons for adopting CI and most importantly not excluding the senior management team. It is essential that CI advocates are identified early on and suitably trained and empowered in CI representing the various departments from across your organisation. They will learn the appropriate Lean tools and techniques and also get an understanding of project management; problem solving and change management fundamentals. This helps to embed the new skill sets and also will demonstrate the need to change the mind-set and culture of the organisation in order to sustain CI in to the future.

There are a number of key personnel working in the healthcare system who are professionally qualified in Lean Healthcare. They currently represent an underused resource in the absence of a system-wide awareness of the benefits of Lean.

The pressing need to reduce the amount of public money spent on Australia’s health system can be a starting point for reform that will serve the country well – not only through this economic cycle but also over the longer-term as demographic shifts present new challenges and pressures.

The right steps taken now and applied consistently through the health system will bring savings but also help reduce some of the frustrations that leave dedicated professionals questioning the lofty rhetoric they hear about how smarter thinking can allow them ‘do more with less’.

For more information, please click on the following link: http://leigroup.com.au/

 

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