Munson Health
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - Paul Oliver Staff Incorporates 'Lean' Thinking

Paul Oliver Staff Incorporates ‘Lean’ Thinking
Japanese manufacturing efficiencies help hospital processes

Eliminating wasteful efforts from processes works well not only in Japanese auto factories, but also within the corridors of hospitals.

During the past decade, hospitals across the nation have moved to incorporate the Japanese principles of Six Sigma and Lean to create more efficiency and the “continuous improvement” philosophy into health care administration and operations. Lean principles are based on the Toyota Production System that spread to American manufacturers with the publication of the book “Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation.”

Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital clinical support specialist Amanda Rommell recently graduated from a six-month program at Northwestern Community College that certified her as a Lean Office Champion.

“I really have an interest in it and we use a lot of different Lean concepts every day,” she said. “Anytime a department or individual wants to make improvements, I can help by identifying the tools and then help get the effort rolling.”

Recent efforts to incorporate Lean thinking at the hospital involved creating more efficiency between clinical and clerical staff to ensure the proper documentation forms are available for particular procedures.

“We created a card that informs the clerical staff what form is needed and how many forms to print. It eliminates the need for clinical staff to order the forms,” she said. “We also did some reorganization in our loading dock area to create more efficiency in handling of our supplies.”

NMC Training Services began offering Lean training to office and health care settings two years ago. Lead trainer Heather Fraizer, Ph.D., said even though the principles are the same, applying them in an information-based setting poses particular challenges.

“Waste and work-arounds are often more difficult to see in office settings and it sometimes helps to see examples from other offices,” she said.

Paul Oliver Chief Operating Officer Peter Marinoff said the Lean philosophy has proven successful at helping many hospitals shorten the time patients wait for care or services.

“We’re thankful for Amanda’s interest in Lean and for other staff who have undergone more limited training in its concepts,” he said. “Health care reform issues are forcing the health care industry to rethink how we do things. Lean concepts help us do that in a systematic way that ultimately creates efficiencies that will benefit our patients and the community.”