Cut the Fat: 4 Departments to Lean

Posted on December 30, 2011


I had an interesting talk with a healthcare consultant who specializes in Lean and Six Sigma initiatives [click for background and previous posts on Lean and Six Sigma.]

In the course of our talk I asked him for the top places any hospital could save major money if Lean methods were implemented. He provided me with the following list:

  1. Surgery ($$$).  In another healthcare magazine I read recently, this number stuck in my head:  $17,000 / hr.  This was the economic value of a single operating room at one particular hospital. Anyone can see that savings of any sort through Lean, even if only shaving a few minutes off per procedure, or per hour can amass significant savings in only a few weeks.
  2. Emergency Department ($$).  The unofficial front door of the hospital gets many knocks per hour—and is historically known as a ‘hurry up and wait’ scenario. As the table setter to the hospital experience, the ED looks for an efficient way to process bodies through the department. EDs seek fast, accurate patient assessment and movement (especially elsewhere in the hospital to be admitted, if necessary) to keep customer satisfaction level high.
  3. Radiology ($).  Imaging is tied into the diagnosis routine of many service lines in a hospital, so it is at the service of many other departments. Its raison d’etre must be examined to determine how it can best service the hospital’s needs, even if that means imaging becomes decentralized (broken into several small parts and embedded within other departments).
  4. Laboratory ($).  Another process-intensive, yet service-driven function in each hospital is the laboratory. “Process-intensive” is fertile ground for Lean study and implementation. Turnaround from labs is traditionally notoriously slow, and can be the bottleneck in a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, so faster results means patients recover faster.

Lean does not appear to be as intimidating as it sounds. It is not a hospital overhaul or hazy commitment to something expensive and scary. The consultant I spoke with said he easily saves hospitals 30% ‘without even trying’. Lean is a smart tool used to make operations on any level in any department more efficient, and save dollars each day, month and year.  Your architect can help you.  If he or she can’t, find someone who can.

Posted in: Lean Design