Lean Healthcare

We have helped Healthcare customers in areas as diverse as Pharmacy, Medical Records, Pathology, and Elective & Non-elective Operating Theatres to improve their processes and implement lean thinking in their departments. We have also undertaken Acute Emergency Pathway redesign using Value Stream Mapping to and the principles of Flow-Synchronise-Level to reduce patient length of stay and increase throughput across the whole pathway. This section tells you a little about our approach.

Lean and kaizen are no longer new concepts in Healthcare, and most organisations in this sector have heard of, or have already started, a lean transformation. However, we find that after an initial flurry of activity lean improvement often stalls, as disjointed attempts at point kaizen often don’t yield the benefits for patients or the organisation that were hoped for.

Our approach is to take a holistic view of the patient’s journey through their pathway, using the Value Stream Mapping tool. Healthcare is one of the few sectors where the ‘value’ in the stream is also the ‘customer’, and this provides a unique opportunity to configure the flow of value around exactly the needs of the customer. If the focus is on making the patient experience as good as possible, cost reduction and increased productivity will naturally follow. A high-level VSM activity enables Senior Managers in the organisation to really focus in on issues, such as where the process is disconnected, teams working in isolation, delays in moving the patient, and the associated costs of all the waste in the current system.

From the initial map, we help identify the areas of the organisation that require immediate improvement, and work through facilitated Rapid Improvement events with the client’s own people, to improve processes and to eliminate waste. The key stages of this improvement phase are:

MAKE VALUE FLOW -> Its key to unlocking patient flow to understand where the barriers to flow originate. Many of these barriers are self-inflicted in Hospitals and Healthcare organisations from the availability of information, the disconnect between hours worked in different departments, the availability of decision-makers at key points in the process, the batching up of activity – such as testing – to optimise local efficiency rather than the whole system, and the lack of planning around patient discharge. The VSM exercise shows us where Flow is poor, and highlights the potential benefit of improving the flow of value in the patient pathway or organisation.

SYNCHRONISE YOUR PROCESS STEPS -> There’s little point making isolated improvements in your processes to just move the patient from one queue to another. With our help we can help Hospitals to understand their customer demand, and use this to generate the drum beat within your wards and departments, so that all steps in the process can work to this beat (this is the ‘takt time’ in lean terms). We never forget that patients are humans, and unpredictable things can happen all of the time. However, it’s important to understand the current capacity of each step in the patient pathway, and to be able to monitor closely the ‘bottleneck’ step in the process. All other steps need to be subservient to this bottleneck so that this asset (be it a Theatre or a vital piece of equipment) is as fully utilised as possible. Furthermore, we can show hospital how to ensure that their processes stay closely synchronised by managing the flow in their departments through visual controls and balancing their capacity to demand through flexible work teams.

LEVEL YOUR DEMAND -> It is often surprising to some of our Healthcare customers that we have been able to show that their patient demand is often very predictable and stable. Many of the peaks and troughs of variable demand are self-inflicted by the variation that our Healthcare clients introduce into their own processes! What is often misunderstood is that batching of work in planning systems artificially creates these wild swings in demand, and that ‘true customer demand’ is often far more stable than people would imagine. Once we have established Synchronised Flow in your business we can help you to understand how by Levelling demand you can really start to drive out waste and save cost in your business. Again our Value Stream Map shows us where to apply this thinking, and we make extensive use of a tool called the ‘Glenday Sieve’ to help us and you understand the true picture of customer demand. This has been particularly applicable to Elective patient care, but can provide very useful insight in Non-elective and Emergency treatments.

The final part of our lean model focusses on people development. By adopting a lean approach you quickly start to surface problems and barriers that have to be tackled. To do this you need people in your organisation to become ‘problem-solvers’, otherwise the waste that was hiding these issues creeps back in. We coach and train your people to see waste, and to give them the structured problem-solving methods that help them to solve their own problems and become your internal lean thinkers of the future!

Contact us today, using the details below, to arrange a visit to your site and learn more about how Lean FSL will be able to help you.