For most healthcare organizations, developing a strategic plan is much easier than executing it. The industry’s complex and evolving regulations and payment systems, changing practice and delivery models, clinical variation, and rising patient acuity force providers into a state of constant reactivity. Under these conditions, carrying out a strategic vision seems improbable, if not impossible.

Lean management strategies can help leadership escape this cycle of reactivity by empowering employees to implement sustainable, prioritized change.

HOW IT WORKS

By aligning employees’ work and daily improvement efforts with the strategic direction of an organization, lean management systems help achieve key business objectives faster.

The principles and practices of lean management are derived from the factory oriented Toyota Management System, which emphasizes improving processes and developing people. These concepts are applicable to any industry and are ideal for health care.

A SOLUTION TO THE EXECUTION DILEMMA

Leadership’s ability to execute and sustain change is impeded by taking on too many organizational initiatives and objectives at once with limited focus and resources. This creates what’s known as the execution dilemma.

Lean management can help leadership resolve the execution dilemma by focusing an organization on a few vital priorities, then helping employees establish and understand the connection between the work they’re doing on a daily basis and those strategic goals. This requires leadership to empower and train everyone within their organization to be effective problem solvers, focusing their efforts on solving the problems that matter most.

BENEFITS

Solving execution problems with lean management has wide-ranging potential benefits for employees as well as patients.

PATIENTS

The application of lean management in healthcare is still relatively new and has only occurred over the last two decades. Still, organizations that have successfully implemented this management system see significant improvement in a number of areas. Specifically, they’ve realized as high as 50% average improvement in patient access, cost reduction, patient throughput, waits and delays, defect reduction, safety and clinical outcomes.

EMPLOYEES AND PHYSICIANS

Staff and physician engagement as well as satisfaction also increases as team members find purpose in their work and gain a deeper understanding of the value they provide. Lean organizations have dramatically improved employee retention, almost eliminated unwanted turnover and the associated costs, and helped reduce physician burnout.

HOSPITAL OUTCOMES

The following are examples of successful lean health care system implementations.

Between 2012 and 2014, a hospital in Northern California applied lean management strategies and showed strong improvement in a number of areas.

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