South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday September 2, 2014
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August 2012 - Volume 9 - Issue 2

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Lean Healthcare: Solutions that Matter, Solutions that Work!

With healthcare costs on a continuous upward trend, it’s not surprising that there is an underlying assumption that quality healthcare is expensive and that to improve the quality of care, you have to spend more. Recent experiences demonstrate that healthcare organizations can prove these assumptions false. By learning the Lean Six Sigma methodology and implementing Lean Healthcare, hospitals and even small doctor’s offices can reduce costs while improving service to their patients.
 
Once thought to be a management fad, Lean Six Sigma is now becoming the most successful process improvement methodology of all time. Over 50% of the Fortune 500 are using these tools and principles, and over 40% of hospitals report some level of Lean or Six Sigma deployment. The latest economic cycle has shown that healthcare providers and insurers alike need faster adoption of Lean Six Sigma and a corresponding shift in culture to be capable of getting maximum value from business process while reducing the ever-rising cost of healthcare.
 
There is a tremendous cost associated with the gap between current management practices at the front-line and ideal Lean management practices. These costs are evident not only in lost productivity and decreased quality, but also in low employee morale, patient dissatisfaction and lost business. Lean Healthcare organizations that are able to close this gap by enhancing the information and management tools utilized by their front-line managers will have a long- term competitive advantage in the marketplace.
 
The delivery of Lean Healthcare depends on people, process, and technology coming together. No matter how sophisticated the processes and technological investments, quality healthcare will always require effective management of these three things. Many front-line managers I encounter tend to focus on tasks and position themselves in a “fire-fighting” mode. They are typically less effective in the discipline of planning, forecasting, coordinating, leading and following-up on expectations. Often they lack the important tools and skills that are taught in Lean Six Sigma to manage the people, process, and technology in an effective manner.
 
Lives are at stake, and healthcare providers are there to ensure that everything surrounding the medical treatment of patients happens most efficiently and effectively; so that all patients receive the highest quality care a facility is able to provide without creating unnecessary costs. Healthcare providers and insurers continue to find solutions, such as those that I teach in the Nova Southeastern University Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt program, to improve efficiency, drive growth and position themselves for the future.
 
While Lean Healthcare through the Lean Six Sigma methodology is not a silver bullet for driving business performance improvement, it can be a key element of a high-performing healthcare ecosystem which provides the ongoing catalyst to drive innovation while also improving outcomes by creating solutions that matter and solutions that work!
Frank Voehl is a Master Black Belt and the Director of Process Improvement at Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at (954) 262-5024 and fv86@huizenga.nova.edu.
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