Going Lean In Healthcare Essay Sample
Lean management practice or lean thinking is based on a simple concept: “using less to do more” (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 2). Lean thinking is often related to Japanese manufacturing, more specifically the Toyota Production System (TPS) in which quality assurance was promoted and streamlined through ensuring that quality was intrinsically built into the product. Also, lean management embraced the view of ameliorating the production process rather than relying on mass inspections to guarantee quality. While lean thinking is a novel notion to the healthcare industry, its principles are applicable to the field and can help to improve the way healthcare is delivered to the most important constituent, that is the patient. This term paper will explore how both Virginia Mason Med Center and Thedacare define operational excellence; and it will examine the similarities and differences of both institutions’ strategic plan for achieving operational excellence.
Virginia Mason Med Center (VMMC) serves as an ideal example of a healthcare institution that has adopted lean thinking into its organizational culture and leadership strategy. In fact, it has constructed a visual aid [in the form of a pyramid] to illustrate its commitment to lean management practice within the hospital. The peak of the pyramid features the patient who is at the core of service at VMMC. The remainder of the pyramid includes four pillars that all aim to undergird the organization’s vision, which is “to be the quality leader in healthcare” (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 10). Those pillars are as follows: people, quality, service, and innovation. People in terms of excellent talent acquisition, quality in terms of attaining optimum results, service in terms of meeting the specific needs of both internal and external “customers”, and innovation in terms of brainstorming and “trystorming,” i.e., quickly trying new ideas or models of new ideas (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 12).
As a matter of fact, VMMC modeled its organizational strategic plan after the Toyota Production System or TPS; thus, the Virginia Mason Production System or VMPS is the foundation for the hospital’s vision. Fully immersing itself in all things lean thinking VMMC created guidelines that highlighted the roles, responsibilities and expectations for each employee to heed in order to create a culture of transparency, feedback and trust. Visible images of the lean pyramid were posted throughout the organization for easy access to team members. What is more striking is that senior leaders made a business trip to Japan so they could learn, firsthand, the principles of lean management from Toyota up close and personal. Consequently, they would bring this knowledge and experience back to Seattle, VMMC’s home base, for implementation into the institution. These senior leaders pioneered what became the VMPS following their Japanese business trip. They were responsible for the idea behind VMPS which is “to achieve continuous improvement by adding value without adding people, money, large machines, space or inventory, all toward a single overarching goal --- no waste” (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 11).
Another healthcare organization, Thedacare, situated in Wisconsin, has become well known for its superb healthcare services as well as its technological prowess in that it is “among the nation’s most-wired, or computer-savvy healthcare institutions” (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 14). While it has a similar “lean story” to Virginia Mason Med Center, it is differentiated from VMMC by the fact that its top leaders did not travel abroad to examine the lean management business approach. Instead, Thedacare “thought globally by acting locally” in its reaching out to a nearby equipment manufacturer that had been effectively employing lean thinking for multiple years. Like its healthcare counterpart, Thedacare placed the patient at the forefront of its concern and service, designing a visual strategic plan that would ensure ultimate customer satisfaction and care (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 14).
Moreover, Thedacare’s lean goals and metrics focus on key three areas: quality, business and employee engagement. These areas are represented graphically to help staff visualize and internalize these core competencies. Becoming a world-class healthcare provider, making the Fortune 100 list of best employers, and reducing overhead in order to reduce the price for healthcare services while escalating productivity have all been molded with the patient in mind. The ThedaCare Improvement System runs parallel to Virginia Mason Med Center’s production system and it includes three fundamental change tenets: “respect for people, teaching through experience, and focus on world-class performance” (Institute for Healthcare Improvement 15). ThedaCare Improvement System also boasts three goals which are improved staff morale, improved quality (reduction of defects), and improved productivity. The fulfillment of these goals positions Thedacare to become a top-notch healthcare facility not only in Wisconsin, but also throughout the United States.
Finally, while lean management or thinking is not a new theory, it is an innovative concept to the healthcare field. Just as lean thinking has resulted in more enhanced production processes for companies like Toyota, so too can it yield equally sustainable results for healthcare organizations as evidenced by outstanding performance-driven facilities like Virginia Mason and Thedacare. Lean thinking and practice has the potential to do more good than harm by abating waste of time, energy, resources, and funding in a variety of industries as long as it is welcomed on all organizational levels of a corporate culture. In summary, a customer-centric healthcare system based on efficiency, effectiveness and ethicality proves to be the flourishing harvest produced by the seeds of going lean in healthcare.
“Going Lean in Health Care.” Institute for Healthcare Improvement. January – February 2005. Cambridge: Institute for Healthcare Improvement. White Paper.