Reading My Mind
By now you know my feelings about so-called healthcare reform. Nor have I been shy about touting the many advances NorthBay Healthcare has brought to Solano. So, someone asked, "Is there anything else on your mind these days?"
Thanks for asking. Of late I am learning as much as I can about what is called "lean." The Lean Enterprise Institute defines it as:
"A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste."
So why am I interested and can we apply it to NorthBay?
True healthcare reform starts at the organizational level. There is much we can do to improve how we provide health care to wring out the waste, but still ensure outcomes are better. Until I belatedly stumbled onto lean, I could not quite figure out a way to make it happen.
I first learned of lean a few years ago. Its use of Japanese jargon ("kaizen" any one?) reminded me more of a sushi restaurant or an exotic cult than a process which could help NorthBay.
"Gemba" - what in current management jargon is similar to the idea of "management by walking around" - vaguely sounded to me like a disease we were warned about many years ago in P.E. I also was turned off by the fact that lean has its roots in manufacturing, and of course, I assumed it could have no applicability to health care.
In my tenure at NorthBay we unfortunately had to deal with various cost crises by laying off staff. Sometimes conditions are such you really have no choice. Usually, however, after a year or so, the employee count is back up and the savings evaporate. There has to be a better, longer lasting and less traumatic way to deal with such fiscal situations.
In recent years the concept of lean has moved into health care in a big way. Many healthcare systems and hospitals now successfully implement it. We have used some lean concepts here and there at NorthBay, but now is the time for NorthBay to consider fully joining the lean hordes.
This is especially important as we contemplate what facilities we are going to develop on our three main campuses in the next five years. Lean can play an important role in helping decide whether more space is needed or whether existing space can be used more productively, and thereby mitigate the need for costly new construction. Savings can be great.
Next, management staff will join me in learning more about these concepts and how they can assist NorthBay in achieving our mission of compassionate care, advanced medicine, close to home.
That is what's been on my mind; avoid a "muda," activity that is wasteful and doesn't add value. Or as something folks in Washington need to learn.