How Lean Principles Can Turn Your Healthcare Company Into An Efficiency Machine

When it comes to Lean and healthcare, you really shouldn’t view it as just another program, or a business section that needs to be introduced. In fact, Lean is a complete transformation of a facility from the bottom up. You should look at it as a brand-new business culture that will help your company achieve groundbreaking results.

Once you implement Lean into your work community, you will see changes in the atmosphere, employee attitude, work efficiency, work habits and, of course – overall productivity. Lean is not something you do once and then forget about; it is an ongoing transformation of your work environment and everyone involved in it.

If Lean can be summed up in a single phrase, that it would probably be – gradual improvement. That’s what Lean really comes down to: it is a gradual improvement of a company, in every possible way. Furthermore, it creates a whole new set of professional values your employees can adhere to.

Lean unifies the whole work process around a single purpose, giving both the employees and patients a sense of working on a common goal. In turn, this results in outstanding results and numerous physical and psychological benefits.

Let us break down all the principles of implementing Lean management into your healthcare company. You will see all the ways in which your health care company can be transformed if you opt for it.

1. Increased Employee Engagement

Employees are given tasks which help increase their overall work engagement and productivity. They are allowed to come up with new ideas for improving their engagement, and discuss them with their colleagues. Communication among workers is smoother, discussions are more constructive and goal-oriented, and each problem is worked on until a solution is reached. Every new idea is welcomed, and every possible approach to the work process is given enough thought.

This practice has proved to be highly effective, as employees who speak to each other openly are more engaged and productive. The core value of this practice lies in its team-building aspects, as effective collaboration of the entire medical team can significantly reinforce all aspects of the work process.

2. Increased Efficiency

The entire work process is rethought and redesigned. The most important feature of the Lean practice is the creation of standardized protocols; these are designed in such a way that they cut all unnecessary aspects of the work procedure and reinforce its integral parts. Staff members are focused on problem-solving as one of the major contributing factors to the overall quality of the workflow.

Oftentimes, this practice turns entire medical facilities upside down, rearranging the work process in the best possible way. The biggest asset of this practice is the strengthening on the whole work environment, where every staff member knows exactly what to do and how to do it.

3. Reinforced Skillsets

The skillset of the staff members is their most important asset. Without skilled, knowledgeable workers, the whole medical facility can be compromised, and this could even lead to fatal consequences.

Lean methodology puts extra focus on the skillset of the workforce, making sure that every team member is absolutely equipped (professionally, physically and psychologically) for performing their given tasks. The work process can further be improved through the use of Lean consultants and facilitators, who apply the best practices for workplace optimization.

Staff members are treated as equal employees (each with their own skillset) and the entire work process is set to respond to an individual’s set of skills and responsibilities. As a result of this, delays are minimized, work volume is increased and turnover time is cut down significantly.

4. Increased Work Flexibility

Sometimes, when a situation requires it, the work process has to be adjusted to the new “environment”. In these situations, work flexibility is extremely important. Working around an emergency, and coming up with the most effective strategy is key for all medical facilities.

Lean implementation helps medical facilities improve their work flexibility and optimize their employees for all case scenarios. This results in better overall efficiency and increased productivity.

5. Reinforced Reputation

If a healthcare company or a medical facility works like clockwork, it will definitely show in their reputation among the clients and patients. Lean management helps healthcare companies reinforce their image among clients through consistent quality of services provided. Sadly, this is something that many companies choose to ignore.

With too many drops in the quality of service, a company jeopardizes its future in the market. Through Lean management, every part of the company will come together, turning the entire company into a healthy organism. When a company works perfectly, the service recipients will be absolutely satisfied – and they will spread the word around.

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The Benefits of Lean

Lean is a customer-centric philosophy of continuous improvement to maximize value and reduce waste. Doing that, it improves the quality of services and products, subsequently benefiting the customer.

The focus of Lean is to minimize the expenses, workforce, and excessive activities in order to increase the efficiency and eliminate the costs. Therefore, the main idea of Lean is optimising the value-creating processes of the customers to finish the whole operation smoothly.

Lean provides an organisation with many advantages since the correct application of the Lean principles will achieve considerable benefits. The direct benefits are improving quality, smoother operation, more efficient business processes, providing solutions to cut down errors, reducing cycle times, managing process complexity, increasing team productivity and morale, reducing operating costs, reducing lead-time, and many more. All these benefits are possible if Lean is incorporated into your business.

Lean for Service Businesses

Service organisations are very different from a manufacturing company; however, they still have many wasteful processes that could be minimized or completely removed. Therefore, the philosophy of Lean in a service environment remains identical – to realize maximum performance and productivity with minimum resources, besides being more difficult to locate immaterial wastes.

The service companies are under the pressure to provide quicker response times, exceptional customer service, and support for the customers. Lean targets wastes and in that way helps to optimise the service processes. Either Lean will remove the wastes entirely or it will move them to a more efficient state.

The Benefits of Lean in Healthcare

Delivering quality healthcare efficiently is challenging. Healthcare processes have a large avoidable waste component, so Lean is the perfect quality improvement approach. It improves health and the quality of care for patients while saving resources and time. Minimizing waste is not the crucial goal but a means to improve services to the patient. Putting the patient in the first place requires a thinking workforce.

Some benefits of Lean healthcare are:

  • Reducing waiting time for patients
  • Improving hygiene
  • Improving the flow of treatment to patients, without mistakes and accidents
  • Making sure emergency patients are treated with the best protocols without delays
  • Standardizing procedures that create the basis for constant improvement while creating a stable working environment
  • In Lean, all obstacles are found and eliminated, so, the number of patients attended increases, while working with the same equipment
  • Ensuring pharmacies have an optimal level of stocks and avoiding losses due to the expiry of medications
  • Preventing medication errors by error-proofing processes

Applying Lean in healthcare has resulted in improving patient satisfaction, decreasing readmission rates, and decreased the length of stay. The entire workforce has become motivated and they understand that they are identifying and providing value to their patients.

The Benefits of Lean in Law

Increase client profit and satisfaction by reducing waste

The clients get better service by removing waste from legal processes and the work is done faster. In addition, the department stays on the budget since there are fewer costs associated.

Optimize the firm

This includes reviewing the responsibilities of the firm and employees, making sure, if the right people are performing the right tasks. This allows the lawyers to concentrate on the higher complexity jobs.

Minimize over-processing

The amount of work on cases can be disproportionate to the value of the case and that troubles the legal system. One of the solutions of Lean is to improve the communication between lawyers and clients, so the lawyers can understand what exactly their clients want and offer the best given their budget. Also, this means increasing the cooperation with the opposite client.

Use the talent in your office

Lean encourages new ideas from all employees that can result in excellent improvement. It makes the work environment more relaxed, resulting in new and better strategies.

Process mapping

One of the most important benefits of developing a process map is better resource management. It identifies duplicate and wasted effort. It establishes boundaries for a project, preventing the project to spin out into areas that are not part of the plan. Also, it makes sure whether the right level of legal resource is used at every phase. This requires every employee to develop a well-defined picture of the issue and the procedures to address it, keeping everyone involved on the same page.

The Benefits of Lean in Finance Organizations

Lean thinking provides an operating methodology to businesses as banks, investment and insurance companies to maintain process excellence and constantly improve results. It provides with cost-effective solutions and reduces the risks during an economic dip. So, Lean helps transform accounting and finance into high-performing and customer-focused organizations, focusing on delivering value.

Focus on value from your customers’ perspective

It prevents you from performing entire processes that do not produce value but make you waste time improving them.

Eliminate non-value adding activities

Lean is efficient at the identification and elimination of extra processing and overproduction, unnecessary transportation, rework, waiting time, and other non-valued added activities. By mapping the process and finding these tasks, improvement teams can address the waste and considerably improve process performance.

Turn problems into opportunities

The Lean approach to quality views problems as opportunities to advance process capability and improve customer value. It strives to resolve the problems by addressing the source of their origin, as soon as they happen. Once their source is identified, the team modifies the process to avoid the problem from reappearing. This is made by depersonalizing process improvement. The tactic is not to blame the people, but the process. One approach that works well is to refer to the process as the “systems and processes”. People are never reluctant to identify problems with the inanimate systems.

Lean is used widely in the service sector for maximizing value and improving the efficiency of the business. With applying Lean, the business gets more motivated employees, increased customer value. It helps the businesses to do their job better with a more effective strategy, resulting in better, faster, and more effective service to external and internal customers. From the better management of process complexity to improved team morale, it is clear that the benefits of Lean go far beyond the work itself.

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Lean Predictions For 2017 And Beyond

We polish our crystal ball and give you our insights into the future.

Prediction 1: It’s How You Implement It That Counts!

At least two Lean implementation forks in the road exist right now. One has some companies looking for the next big thing after a foray into Lean.

On the second path, companies in diverse industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, IT and aviation have achieved the planned outcomes that a sustained, successful Lean implementation brings. They are able to point to the specific rewards and improvements in parts, or across the whole, of their business.

For the first path, a lesson to emerge is that the journey can be a challenge and that even those with years of experience in performance improvement using Lean methodologies may have further to go to achieve the outcomes they are looking for, or, they may have to restructure their process. The challenge that a Lean implementation presents is for the many pathways to be explored and carefully implemented.

So….. we predict that companies will learn from these lessons and aim for a Lean implementation that is carefully planned. In this way companies avoid the frustration of having to look for the next new management tool as a result of an unhappy experience.

Prediction 2: It’s All About Your People!

• The Lean journey for some companies may be a case of history repeating itself. Project management evolved in the second half of the 20th century from an emphasis on “process” to an understanding that process is only part of the solution and the importance of fully engaged and empowered and enabled employees cannot be overlooked.

The Lean journey may have some parallels.

Lean emerged from the Toyota experience with an important message to emerge being“We do not just build cars, we build people”.

So we predict that companies implementing a Lean transformation will increasingly find ways to really engage employees and to develop employees’ Lean implementation capability and to meaningfully support them through the implementation.

As an element of this focus, we expect to see greater emphasis on the creation of cultural change as an essential component of a successful Lean implementation. In other words we predict that companies will incorporate an understanding of the importance for the business of really addressing “The way we do things here” as part of the Lean implementation.

Prediction 3: Let’s Not Forget Effective Management

If companies are to engage employees with the responsibility for continuous improvement via a Lean transformation, then they must ensure that managers can step-up to provide management processes and behaviors that not only lead the process change, but also generate employee engagement and commitment.

This requires managers understanding and explaining the need for, and the purpose of, the transformation. We see this as an essential beginning of the process.

Then managers need the capabilities to bring employees with them as the process unfolds. A well developed understanding of the Lean processes and principles is an essential start.

We predict further involvement by managers in implementing more generic management trends (that relate to a Lean transformation) to build on the capability-development trend. We can add improved understanding of culture change and development in companies, as well as greater knowledge of learning organizations and performance management in projects and teams.

Prediction 4: 2017 Will Be a Big Year

We guess that you have been paying attention recently and like us, expect the unexpected during 2017, as the changes in the USA political landscape ripple through to business.

We predict that the inevitable changes will create new opportunities and that winners will, to some extent, be those companies agile enough to look at process changes, technology advances and customer buying/interaction patterns that impact on the customer experience and the way they do business.

Emerging technology trends and changes in federal regulation in the USA (and elsewhere as the world catches up) will encourage companies to seek process and business change solutions as a matter of urgency.

Lean will play its part and may begin a new age of adaptive change.

More rapid evolution of the Lean process is, in our opinion, inevitable’s businesses look for short and longer term solutions to the opportunities and challenges emerging during 2017.

Prediction 5: Lean Will Increasingly Address a Range of Workplace Challenges

We expect Lean systems to be asked to do more to address the pace of change. We are not talking replacing evolution with revolution but rather looking for adaptive responses to emerging issues across industries.

This may mean that process and solution sharing responses will become more important, especially where there is common ground across industries. What works in IT for example may be adapted for use in health. Creative minds and adaptable systems will converge around this challenge and opportunity.

As a starting point, this convergence could include areas such as employee engagement, manager capability and processes and systems for managing the processes. IT will also play an important part in supporting and speeding the process.

One challenging prediction is that, while Lean is primarily focused as a solution for information flow problems,it may also emerge as a system for improving human health in organizations.

We look forward to Lean transformations emerging as systems capable of evolving from its constraints and improving human health in companies.

For example, eliminating information flow problems greatly reduces the myriad of workplace stressors facing managers and employees, not to forget customers and suppliers.

And isn’t this what we use Lean for? The creation of a productive, efficient and effective workplace finely tuned to the needs and opportunities of the marketplace and staffed by engaged and healthy employees.