Monday, September 8, 2014

Value Stream Mapping in Healthcare

Lean Manufacturing often called as “Lean”, is a method where resources are used only for creating direct value of a product to their end customer. “Value” is any process or service that a customer would be willing to pay for. Lean principles were derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry (1). Value stream mapping is a tool that manufacturers can use to improve process efficiency and reduce waste. A value stream map is a process map with a duration of each step along with additional information such as exchange of materials and information from point A to B to create a visual flow diagram and everyone affected by the process can clearly see the complete process. This diagram is an effective tool to identify processes and to decide which processes to focus on as a starting point. However, it is really important that the map is made by the right set of people. (2)

Healthcare in US is complex. 20-30% of healthcare spending is waste- because of over treatment of patients, failure to co-ordinate care, administrative complexity etc. Example: Most of the patient time is spent on waiting.  Expenditure on healthcare reached $2.8T in 2012. (3) Since lean is a method of process improvement – it can be applied to any process including those within healthcare industry. Value stream mapping can be used to identify all the steps in a patient’s treatment process (from service user to supplies used). Then focus on the “future state” of the process, which will represent a significant change in the way the system currently operates. An implementation strategy can be made to develop the future state into practice. Implementing value stream mapping will help to streamline healthcare work processes, reduce costs and improve quality.

One recent example of a pharmaceutical company that used lean management technique is Pfizer. They made use of lean in their design processes for a new vaccine suite for their manufacturing plant in Ireland. They used value stream mapping for all of their production processes and developed over 200 maps which helped them improve their efficiency and win an award for operational excellence. (2)
Imagine using value stream mapping for an important and essential department in a hospital like ED- it’s always full of emergency cases with long queues and patient waiting hours. Would using lean management tools really help in improving its efficiency?

1.      1. Lean Manufacturing – Wikipedia
2.      2. Lean Manufacturing improves process efficiency –

3.      3.

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