3 ways lean management boosts satisfaction, lowers costs

Despite evidence showing that the lean management model, when used in healthcare, significantly improves patient satisfaction, boosts employee satisfaction and saves money, the transition is not always an easy sell for doctors.

So what exactly does a lean practice look like? A recent case study published in American Medical News describes some of the particular changes that streamline office flow. The following three elements have made ThedaCare's health system in Appleton, Wis., a better place to work and receive care:

Just in time lab testing. Instead of having patients come in a week early to have labs drawn or scheduling follow-up appointments to go over results, ThedaCare's 22 primary care offices can handle most lab tests or imaging studies typically needed in primary care practices.

"Ninety-five percent of the time, the patient should now walk out of the office with the plan of care, with medication changes, referrals and follow-up items done right then and there," John Toussaint, M.D., ThedaCare CEO, told amnews. "We're using these principles to streamline flow, to reduce the waste in the system, all focused on delivering a better patient experience."

Continuous improvement. Rather than resting on their laurels, each clinic has corkboards used to track targeted metrics such as patient satisfaction, how often lab results are completed within 15 minutes, and the percentage of eligible adult patients getting the pneumococcal vaccine, according to the article. In the breakroom, an area is dedicated to brainstorming and planning other improvement ideas. At all of ThedaCare's clinics and five hospitals, thousands of staff improvement ideas were implemented in 2012.

Tracking (and removing) wasted time. As just one example, Montgomery "Monk" J. Elmer, M.D., a family physician at ThedaCare's clinic in Kimberly, Wis., discovered that that the dictation service he was using—intended to save money on transcription services--resulted in inaccurate records that took him over an hour to correct each day. Now, with a traditional software program and transcriptionist service, he can leave the office by 5:30 p.m. This is just one instance of a change that saves time, money, and improves physician morale, Toussaint said.

To learn more:
- read the article from American Medical News