For today's guest post I am happy to have my friend Brian Buck talk about Lean in Healthcare. Brian is an internal Lean consultant at a hospital in Washington State. He blogs at http://improvewithme.com and can be found on Twitter as http://twitter.com/brianbuck.
A frequent driver for Lean in hospitals is to improve clinical outcomes to make diagnoses and treatments safer and more predictable which drives down costs for all stakeholders. For hospitals to be competitive, they must also improve their service as well. Providing great medical care is not enough if the service is poor or inconsistent.
I recently spoke with an executive at the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit who captured the typical patient experience fairly well. She said “Going to a hospital is like visiting a foreign country for patients and their families. Everybody speaks a different language. They can’t find their way around. They do not know anybody. The only thing that is recognizable is eating and going to the bathroom. With the food, we usually offer two choices that they would never pick on their own and then dictate what time they are to eat it. For the bathroom, we do not allow them to lock the door when they use it.”
There are some outstanding people who work in hospitals that provide great service and display a genuine care for the patients. The problem is this level of service is not consistent. A culture needs to be in place to ensure everybody in the hospital has an awareness of what the customer is experiencing so they can help them. Capacity needs to be created to ensure people are not overburdened which can negatively impact service.
A couple of years ago, a family member went to a local hospital and had service that was unacceptable to him. He frequently encountered nurses who either did not answer basic questions or took a very long time to respond. Doctors did not appear to talk to each other because of inconsistent messaging about the plan of care. Some people said he would be discharged on one day while others said it would be on a different day. He was already scared due to the medical condition, but the lack of service completely frustrated him and his wife. When he left after four days, his medical condition was taken care of but the service he received made him vow to never return there again.
Hospitals that pursue improvement to both clinical excellence and service excellence will attract more patients and retain those that need to return for other services. These kinds of improvements are critical for hospitals to survive.
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