Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lean Principles Applied to Healthcare

The Toyota Production System (TPS) may have its origins in the world of manufacturing, but its principles can be applied to many different industries, one such industry is healthcare. Considering the amount of money that goes into healthcare, it would stand to reason that TPS would be needed in this industry.  The following is a summary of how 5 key principles from the TPS could be applied to healthcare.

1. Eliminate waste or non-value added activity- a key principle in the TPS is that any activity that does not add value to the process or organization must be eliminated. In a hospital setting, waiting is the biggest waste in the process. Organizations has taken steps to turn this around. By empowering employees to identify points of waste, such as not having everything one needs during room turnovers increases wait time. Several hospitals were able to reduce the amount of time a patient spends in a hospital just through identifying wasteful processes.

2. Keep inventory low- another key principle of the TPS is the concept of "Just in Time" inventory strategy. This refers to a strategy where inventory and supplies are only ordered and used when they are needed. Having this strategy in place will help keep inventory low and prevent hospitals from over ordering supplies. Several methods can be used to facilitate this process. Tools such as bar codes and scanners allow the supply chain to be more flexible and responsive.

3. Embrace technology- having the right technology and implementing it correctly can go a long way in eliminating waste and making the overall process in a hospital better. Technologies such as EMR and digital supply chain management can reduce the manual labor and eliminate the error that comes with it.

4. Develop people-a unique thing about the TPS is that it puts the power of improvement, not in the hands of the manager, but rather the employees. The system empowers employees to be a part of the process and to take charge of improving it. During times of economic crisis, companies would look to layoff people, but the TPS look to people to find a way to be more efficient with less.

5. Focus on root problems- the TPS forces people to look beyond the surface of problems and look deeper at the cause of the problem. If a surgical tool is unaccounted for, the TPS does not allow the employee to just go to the storage room and just grab another one and move on. That does not solve the problem, the TPS would force people to continually ask why (at least five times) to seek out the problem, fix it so it won't happen again.

With the overwhelming popularity and efficiency of the TPS, what factors of the healthcare system makes it challenging to implement the system?


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