Lean Emergency

David Edwards – Operations Professionals

As the health care debate rages in the US and centers on how to provide health insurance to our citizens, it seems our government leadership is missing the point, which is providing health ‘care’ to our citizens. Effective health insurance should by all rights be a zero sum proposition, the sum of all premiums collected should equal the sum of all health care provided (less a reasonable administrative profit), a seemingly simple concept that appears to escape the average health care consumer who is being led to believe that ‘affordable’ health insurance means paying less in premiums and receiving more in care benefits. Providing insurance to everyone will not accomplish this goal, decreasing the cost of health care will.

Manufacturing organizations have been faced with this challenge since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Companies that can effectively deliver higher quality products at lower costs thrive and those that can’t wither away. Unfortunately, our health care system has not benefited from this challenge. Health care costs, and therefore health insurance costs, have increased at more than double the rate of inflation since the 1970s. This exponential growth is a product of gross inefficiency in the entire health care / health insurance process.

Health care operations are beginning to understand the value of applying the ‘lean’ principals pioneered in the manufacturing sector to their health care processes. A recent study looks at 4 emergency room operations that tried to apply lean principles to their emergency care operations. According to Dr. Eric W. Dickson, a lead researcher in the study, “We have a fundamental problem in the U.S. health system, and it relates to delivering value to our patients.”

The results of this study indicate that health care operations can reap the same benefits that manufacturing operations have been reaping for years from the application of lean concepts. However, the results also indicate that health care operations are in the infancy of learning to apply these principals. Similar to US adoption of these principles in the 80’s and 90’s, health care operations are still very tentative and suspicious of the process. But, for the US (and global) health care industry, continued application of lean principals must be part of any solution designed to improve the quality, cost and delivery of health care.

Read the complete article here: Toyota Philosophy Works in the ER





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