by adgrooms on June 13, 2019

Healthcare and auto manufacturing may not appear to have a lot in common, but healthcare is experimenting with Lean, an organizational methodology that comes from the auto industry. Since patients aren't cars and doctors aren't robots, how is this going to work in healthcare? Does it belong in healthcare? Why consider it at all?

Changes to regulations in the last decade, such as HIPAA and HITEC, have led to increased administrative oversight and increasing waste. This costs the organization, staff, and patients time and money. The basic principles of Lean include mastering simplicity, eliminating waste, and constantly improving. The Lean model is thus an appealing countermeasure that could provide positive results. Well implemented Lean processes locate and eliminate inefficiencies and redundancies to create a smoother workflow.

Another basic tenant that is particularly relevant to healthcare is respect for the workforce. It is supposed to give employees more say in how things are done. Employees are encouraged to find processes to improve and increase quality. Giving employees the latitude to find and use software that makes their job more efficient, within secure parameters, could also reduce some of the waste.

Lean practices narrow the scope of work and eliminate administrative obstacles. EHRs have shifted providers' daily work away from caring for patients. They are now overwhelmed with data entry. Asking providers to give care and code for billing goes against the Lean ideal of each job having a specific purpose. Although capturing reimbursement is a very important function, according to Lean principles, a physician should be focused on the care of the patient. Another role, or ideally automation, should be responsible for coding and reimbursement.

As Lean is tried in healthcare, it is getting mixed reviews. It shows promise but is not yet proven. In future posts, we will look at the successes and failures to try to determine whether and how Lean benefits healthcare.