Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lean Methods To Improve Healthcare

Lean methods of process improvement are extremely important to hospital systems.  The bottom line is that hospital systems are receiving less payment for their services.  In order to enhance their revenue stream, hospital systems must look to eliminating costs and making processes more efficient.  Lean methodologies address these solutions.  In essence, lean methodologies of process improvement provide a method for hospitals to ‘do more with less.’  By eliminating wasteful practices, reducing readmission rates and lessening the rates of preventable medical errors, hospitals can add to their bottom line and ensure their survival. 

There are challenges to going lean.  One challenge is that hospital staff often assume ‘lean’ is a code word for layoffs.  Again, it is imperative that hospital leaders emphasize that these efforts are aimed at enhancing the efficiency of workers and creating an atmosphere in which workers can perform at higher levels.  In hospitals today, physicians and nurses are overworked and pulled in too many directions.  Much of the work is non-value added tasks such as tracking down missing equipment, deciphering ineligible drug prescription and medical test orders and providing unnecessary procedures, that result from to administrative and operational inefficiencies.  By focusing on lean techniques and improving business processes, much of this non-value added work can be transformed into value-driven tasks.  The ultimate goal is to create an environment in which healthcare providers can focus more on patient care rather than administrative tasks. 

Many critics bemoan the corporatization of medicine and the movement of medicine towards a business-minded approach.  However, healthcare must adopt best in class business techniques in order to handle the increasing complex nature and growing patient demand within medicine.  Adopting lean methodologies for improving healthcare is one such business practice that has been proven in other industries and should be seriously considered to modernize healthcare into a sustainable industry equipped to satisfy future demands.       

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