Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Putting healthcare on a diet: Toyota Production System

Posted by mariarx at Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking at the title you might be asking yourself "what in the hell do cars have to do with hospitals?" Our answer to you is - let's get lean.

Lean thinking is a concept derived from Toyota and how they work. The company has successfully integrated ideas such as worker responsibility, problem solving, just in time production, and inventory management to maximize quality and profits. The process of taking these concepts from car manufacturing to health systems was fairly simple - applying these will be the real battle. UMHS has committed to getting all of its health care providers thinking and acting lean. Assistant Directors Phil Brummond, Lindsey Kelley, fellow admin blogger Tom and I, attended the LEAN workshop in hopes of solving the pharmacy departments most perplexing problems. During the workshop we realized that every department has problems, and the lean problem solving process could really help give everyone a place to start and map out WHY problems are present.

The first 2 days of the lean workshop involved a highly technological simulation of emergency department workflow... we got to spend 4 rounds playing with lego patients, running around a conference room, and rolling dice. Each round, interspersed with lectures and discussion, added an extra layer of lean. We started with sheer chaos, with teams only finishing 3-4 patients in a 10 minute round. By the last round, our teams had finished 15 patients with time to spare. All of this was accomplished by implementing lean processes one round at a time.

Now you could be asking, "guys... how the heck do you take a lego and dice game and make it work in the real world?" I wish I had the answers. The lean workshop didn't give us a map to find the answers to all of our problems. But, it did give us the boyscout tools needed to navigate through the swamps, deserts, and forests of UMHS. By bringing these tools back to the pharmacy department and teaching others how to use them for themselves, we can (slowly) get to the root of a lot of the problems plaguing the department. Making people really examine every step of their routine and workflow - to look for how things should be done, and not how they've been done in the past - is the real goal of this workshop. One of the most profound things I learned was that you cannot MAKE people change, you need them to WANT to change. Given the power and opportunity, health care personnel will makes the changes needed to get more out of their job while also making it more fun, easier, and less stressful.

We learned a lot at the lean workshop and came back to the hospital with a lot to think about and consider. For now, we take it one step at a time and try and lay some groundwork in the last 2 weeks of rotation for the future. I want to be the person who writes their name in the wet cement of the future, even though I may not be around for it to dry.

Maria &

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