Eliminate waste in the workday and equip the team to spend more time on patient care.

Starting Lean Health Care

  • Christine Sinsky, MD AMA, Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans
AMA in partnership with
CME Credits: 1.0

How will this module help my practice become Lean?

  1. Descriptions of common Lean methods to help you select the right ones for your practice
  2. Six steps to help implement Lean improvements in your practice
  3. Answers to common questions and concerns about Lean thinking and methods
  4. Case vignettes describing how practices are successfully using Lean techniques to organize workflows and provide better patient care

CME accreditation information 

Increasing administrative responsibilities—due to regulatory pressures and evolving payment and care delivery models—reduce the amount of time physicians spend delivering direct patient care. By implementing Lean principles, physicians and staff are able to become more efficient as a practice by taking steps to eliminate waste, improve efficiency and add value for the patient. Lean thinking leads to cultural change, where all team members are empowered to identify sources of inefficiency and create innovative solutions to address problems.

Starting Lean health care
Release Date: June 2015
End Date: June 2019

Objectives

At the end of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify a high–level champion and create an interdisciplinary improvement team
  2. Utilize Lean tactics to identify sources of waste in clinic workflows
  3. Empower front–line staff to make improvements or identify an improvement project
  4. Select Lean methods of improvement, such as 5S, Gemba or process flow mapping

Target Audience

This activity is designed to meet the educational needs of practicing physicians.

Statement of Need

In many practices, physicians and staff spend too much time on activities that do not add value to the patient. Some examples of waste in clinic workflows include the time a patient spends waiting during a visit, staff time spent waiting on the phone and staff time moving in and out of exam rooms looking for information. Waste not only causes frustration but also physical and emotional fatigue for physicians and staff. Implementing Lean in the practice can help eliminate waste, improve overall efficiency, and foster team cohesion. The Lean approach gives everyone the opportunity to identify sources of inefficiency and develop innovative solutions to address the problems. Enabling all team members to participate in the improvement process increases involvement, buy–in and ownership by everyone on the team. This module provides step–by–step solutions to identify and implement Lean improvements.

Statement of Competency

This activity is designed to address the following ABMS/ACGME competencies: practice–based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communications skills, professionalism, systems–based practice, interdisciplinary teamwork, and quality improvement.

Accreditation Statement

The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement

The American Medical Association designates this enduring material for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Claiming Your CME Credit

To claim AMA PRA Category 1 Credit, you must 1) view the module content in its entirety; 2) successfully complete the quiz answering 4 out of 5 questions correctly and 3) complete the module.

Planning Committee

  • Rita LePard – CME Program Committee, AMA
  • Ellie Rajcevich, MPA – Practice Development Advisor, Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability, AMA
  • Sustainability, AMA
  • Sam Reynolds, MBA – Director, Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability, AMA
  • Christine Sinsky, MD – Vice President, Professional Satisfaction, American Medical Association and Internist, Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans, Dubuque, IA
  • Krystal White, MBA – Program Administrator, Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability, AMA

Author(s)

  • Christine Sinsky, MD, Vice President, Professional Satisfaction, American Medical Association and Internist, Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans, Dubuque, IA

Faculty

  • Sharon Fine, MD, FAAFP  Medical Director, Physician Danville Health Center and Northern Counties Health Care, Danville, VT
  • Deborah J. Guglielmo, MSN, Corporate Director, Michigan Quality System
  • Randall Huss, MD, Rolla Division President, Mercy Clinic, Rolla, MO
  • Carlos Roberto Jaén, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of Family and Community Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio
  • Jeffrey Panzer, MD, Family Practice Physician & Medical Director of QI, Oak Street Health
  • Ellie Rajcevich, MPA, Practice Development Advisor, Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability, AMA
  • Sam Reynolds, MBA, Director, Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability, AMA
  • Sundance L. Rogers, MD, ABIM, FACP, Internist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Bainbridge Island, WA
  • Christine Sinsky, MD, Vice President, Professional Satisfaction, American Medical Association and Internist, Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans, Dubuque, IA
  • Whitney M–B Walters, MSEM, Director, University of Michigan Health System Lean for Clinical Redesign BCBSM CQI
  • Rachel Willard–Grace, MPH, Research Manager, Center for Excellence in Primary Care, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

About the Professional Satisfaction, Practice Sustainability Group

The AMA Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability group has been tasked with developing and promoting innovative strategies that create sustainable practices. Leveraging findings from the 2013 AMA/RAND Health study, Factors affecting physician professional satisfaction and their implications for patient care, health systems and health policy, and other research sources, the group developed a series of practice transformation strategies. Each has the potential to reduce or eliminate inefficiency in broader office‑based physician practices and improve health outcomes, increase operational productivity and reduce health care costs.

Disclosure Statement

The content of this activity does not relate to any product of a commercial interest as defined by the ACGME; therefore, neither the planners nor the faculty have relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Media Types

This activity is available to learners through Internet and Print.

Hardware/software Requirements

Adobe Flash 9.0.115 or above
Audio speakers or headphones
Screen resolution of 800X600 or higher
MS Internet Explorer 8.0 or higher, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc.
Adobe Reader 5.0 or higher

References

  1. Dennis P. Getting the Right Things Done: A Leader's Guide to Planning and Execution. 1st ed. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2006.
  2. Graban M. Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2011.
  3. Graban, M, Swartz JE. Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front–Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2012.
  4. Kenney C. Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center's Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2010.
  5. Liker J, Meier D. The Toyota Way Fieldbook. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2005.
  6. Nickel T, Paluska K, Shuker T, et al. Perfecting Patient Journeys: Improving patient safety, quality, and satisfaction while building problem–solving skills. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2013.
  7. Plsek PE. Accelerating Health Care Transformation with Lean and Innovation: The Virginia Mason Experience. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2013.
  8. Shook J. Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor and Lead. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2008.
  9. Sobek DK II, Smalley A. Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2008.
  10. Taylor I, Baker M, Mitchell A. Making Hospitals Work: How to improve patient care while saving everyone's time and hospitals' resources. London, UK: Lean Enterprise Academy; 2011.
  11. Toussaint J, Gerard R. On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2010.
  12. Wellman J, Jeffries H, Hagan P. Leading the Lean Healthcare Journey: Driving Culture Change to Increase Value. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2010.
  13. Rother M, Shook J. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 1999.
  14. Womack JP, Jones DT. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster; 2003.
  15. Harter JK, Schmidt FL, Keyes CL. Well–being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes: a review of the Gallup Studies. In: Keyes CLM, ed. Flourishing: The Positive Person and the Good Life. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2002:205–224. http://media.gallup.com/documents/whitePaper--Well-BeingInTheWorkplace.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  16. Langley GL, Moen R, Nolan KM, Nolan TW, Norman CL, Provost LP. The Improvement Guide: A Practical Approach to Enhancing Organizational Performance. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey–Bass; 2009.
  17. Safety Net Medical Home Initiative. Quality improvement strategy part 1: tools to make and measure improvement. http://www.safetynetmedicalhome.org/sites/default/files/Implementation-Guide-QI-Strategy-1.pdf. Published May 2013. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  18. Blackmore CC, Mecklenburg RS, Kaplan GS. At Virginia Mason, collaboration among providers, employers, and health plans to transform care cut costs and improved quality. Health Aff. 2011;30(9):1680–1687.
  19. Bush RW. Reducing waste in US healthcare systems. JAMA. 2007;297(8):871–874.
  20. Collar RM, Shuman AG, Feiner S, et al. Lean management in academic surgery. J Am Coll Surg. 2012;214(6):928–936.
  21. Endsley S, Magill MK, Godfrey MM. Creating a Lean practice. Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13(4):34–38.
  22. Kim CS, Spahlinger DA, Kin JM, Coffey RJ, Billi JE. Implementation of Lean thinking: one health system's journey. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2009;35(8):406–413.
  23. Kim CS, Spahlinger DA, Kin JM, Billi JE. Lean health care: what can hospitals learn from a world–class automaker? J Hosp Med. 2006;1(3):191–199.
  24. Mellett C. Moving toward a culture of mobility. Inside View: A look into the world of Health System faculty and staff at the University of Michigan Health System [Internet]. August 2012. http://uminsideview.org/2271/moving-toward-a-culture-of-mobility. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  25. Spear S. Fixing health care from the inside, today. Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/2005/09/fixing-health-care-from-the-inside-today. Published September 2005. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  26. Spear S. Learning to lead at Toyota. Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/2004/05/learning-to-lead-at-toyota/ar/1. Published May 2004. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  27. Spear S, Bowen HK. Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System. Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/1999/09/decoding-the-dna-of-the-toyota-production-system/ar/1. Published September 1999. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  28. Going Lean in Health Care. IHI Innovation Series white paper. Cambridge, MA: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2005. http://www.ihi.org/knowledge/Pages/IHIWhitePapers/GoingLeaninHealthCare.aspx. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  29. ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value. Assessing and Accelerating Your Lean Transformation. Appleton, WI. http://createvalue.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Assessment_HVN_December2011R5.pdf. Published December 2011. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  30. Deming WE. The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press; 2000.
  31. Deming WE. The Plan–Do–Study–Act Cycle. The W. Edwards Deming Institute website. https://www.deming.org/theman/theories/pdsacycle. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  32. Lean Enterprise Institute. http://www.lean.org/. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  33. Michigan Quality System. University of Michigan Health System website. http://www.med.umich.edu/mqs/. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  34. Schutzbank A. The magic is in the measurement. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Medford, MA. http://www.abimfoundation.org/~/media/Foundation/Initiatives/Primary%20Care/HVMA%20Medford.ashx?la=en. Published November 9, 2011. Accessed March 9, 2015.

Introduction

What is Lean?

“Lean” is both a mindset and a method to engage physicians and staff in organizing their practice to run more smoothly. The focus of Lean is to eliminate waste, improve efficiency and add value for the patient.

Lean healthcare introduction

Six steps to starting Lean:

  1. Identify a high‑level champion
  2. Create an interdisciplinary improvement team
  3. Empower front‑line workers
  4. Choose a starter project
  5. Celebrate and spread
  6. Sustain
  1. 1

    Identify a high‑level champion

    Lean is fundamentally about culture change and therefore requires the buy‑in of a high‑level person, such as the Chief Operating Officer, Chief Medical Officer or lead physician for the practice. This high‑level person serves as the champion for Lean improvement and should be dedicated to leading the effort. They should have sufficient authority and access to organizational resources to ensure that initiatives are progressing at the desired rate.

    • Why is there an emphasis on waste?

      Waste causes physicians and staff to spend time on activities that do not add value to the patient. Waste also causes physical and emotional fatigue for physicians and staff and contributes to frustration.

    • Can you provide examples of waste that I might encounter in my organization?

      Examples of waste include the time a patient spends waiting throughout their visit, staff time spent waiting on the phone, walking down the hall to a printer and moving in and out of the exam room looking for information, other staff members or supplies.

    • How do we eliminate waste?

      The core concept of Lean is to use meticulous attention to every step in each process to determine which steps add value from the patient's perspective and which do not. The goal is to maximize value and minimize waste.

    How can Lean improve the way my practice operates?

    Lean thinking leads to a shift in culture where all team members are empowered to identify sources of inefficiency and innovative solutions to address these problems. Lean works best with the buy‑in and involvement of everyone on the team.

    Empower the team to think Lean and reduce waste in daily work. #STEPSforward

  1. 2

    Create an interdisciplinary improvement team

    For each Lean improvement initiative, bring together an interdisciplinary team from all areas of your practice. This may include reception staff, medical assistants, nurses, physicians and representatives from pharmacy, lab, radiology, administration, information technology and/or the business office. It is important that everyone understands from the beginning that the group's purpose is to work together toward a common organizational goal.

  1. 3

    Empower front‑line workers

    Successful Lean projects are usually chosen and designed by the people doing the work. The role of the champion and other leaders is to foster an environment where on‑the‑ground staff can succeed. Projects are more likely to fail when managers jump in and try to do it all without involving the people on the front lines. Staff can use the following worksheet to submit improvement ideas.

    Team improvement idea worksheet Download See all downloadable tools
  1. 4

    Choose a starter project

    Although it may seem daunting, the best way to learn Lean methodology is to dive in. Work as an interdisciplinary team to identify an important process to improve. This first project should be small but meaningful.

    You may consider a 5S starter project, which focuses on clean and organized workspaces to promote productivity and efficiency and minimize stress. 5S stands for Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Fewer errors are made when tools and supplies are in a reliable location and when less time is spent looking for misplaced supplies or missing information. You might be surprised how much more work gets done when the workspace is uncluttered and reliably organized. Use 5S to reorganize a supply room, team documentation area or workroom.

    • Sort: For each item in the workspace ask, “Does this have a function in this area? If we remove it, will it matter?” One tip is to tag each item with a colored sticker to indicate how often you use it. Green tags identify items that won't be used in the next 48 hours, but are used at least monthly. These items could be moved to a nearby storage area. Yellow tags are for items used occasionally, but less than once a month. These could be moved to more remote storage. Red tags are for unused, broken or obsolete items that should be discarded.
    • Straighten: Organize materials so that they are easy to find and close to where they will be used. The goal is to not waste time looking for supplies or performing unnecessary steps. For example, it is helpful to have all exam room supplies in the same place in each room. Another possibility is to strategically place printers in exam rooms and nearby hallways to save time spent entering and exiting the exam room to pick up printouts. Small boxes, trays and a label maker are handy tools to assist with organizing the selected area.
    • Shine: Make sure all the materials in the workspace are clean and in good working order.
    • Standardize: Make it easy to keep the workspace organized. Place all supplies in the same labeled location in each office. For example, in one clinic, standardized procedure trays are created daily and brought into the room when needed. Clear instructions are posted where the trays are assembled so the standard set up is simple for anyone to follow.
    • Sustain: Develop routines and share responsibilities to make the 5S activities a habit for all team members.
    • We know we are spinning our wheels in our clinic. What sort of workflow processes might we tackle?

      Ask your staff where they would like to start. Examples of small but meaningful starter projects include: decreasing the number of steps in the patient registration process, decreasing wait times for appointments, reducing faxes between different offices or departments and improving inbox management.

    • Do we need to hire a Lean consultant?

      Many organizations hire a Lean consultant to assist with organizational culture change and large‑scale improvements. The consultant makes sure all employees are taught the language and the methodology of Lean, and that they are engaged in change events that impact their work. On the other hand, it is not necessary for every practice to hire a consultant or facilitator to begin to develop a culture of Lean thinking. This module was intentionally created for practices and organizations that want to move to a Lean way of thinking to improve efficiency with their existing resources.

    • How can we find time to do a 5S project?

      Many groups will close their office for a half day or bring their staff in on a Saturday morning to rigorously clean out and organize their workspace. This is often accompanied by some fun team‑building activities. Others will conduct Lean improvement during a dedicated morning or evening session on a weekday. Hopefully, the time investment will be worthwhile because your team will be able to work more efficiently.

    • How many changes should be made at a time?

      It is usually best to start small and implement one change at a time. This way you can determine if your change is having the desired effect.

    Additional common Lean tools and tactics:

    • An A3 is a one‑page visual display of the process improvement project being undertaken. The A3 document provides a snapshot of the activity to keep all stakeholders and supporting leadership informed. A3 can be used to track the progress and success of a Lean project or initiative.
    • Gemba means “the real place” in Japanese. It reminds Lean thinkers and leaders that work is happening in exam rooms, waiting rooms and on the floors, not in offices or conference rooms where many leaders and decision‑makers spend their time. Gemba encourages and supports team‑oriented and front‑line‑driven improvements.
    • Go and see is a tactic that starts with observation on the front lines where work is done. Go and see can help you use Gemba principles. Learning from staff who most intimately know the work often yields practical solutions to interdisciplinary challenges. Leaders who go and see observe a process and understand how the outcome is really achieved, rather than simply trusting what the written procedure says.
    • A Kaizen event brings together front‑line workers and leaders to map and analyze a process, then work together to redesign or improve the process. Involving all stakeholders helps the new process take hold after the Kaizen event. The purpose of these events is to make proactive, incremental changes, leading to greater sustainability and ongoing improvement.
    • Quick wins can be accomplished locally by a single person or a team that identifies waste and makes a change to reduce or eliminate it without a Kaizen event, in‑depth Lean analysis, resources or the support of the Lean champion. Quick wins can energize and involve members of the team. Celebrate even the smallest quick wins that are accomplished by the team.
    • Visually map a process from beginning to end using a process map to help the team identify what work is actually being done and where opportunities for improvement may exist. Process mapping is most frequently used to identify key process steps, sources of waste and changes that could result in creating the ideal workflow.

Process map toolkit

Use this toolkit to visually map process flows in your own practice. Creating a customized process map will help your team identify what's working, and where opportunities for improvement may exist.

The process map toolkit includes:

  • Two example process flows to get you started
  • A library of common shapes and symbols that can be used to create your own flows
Download

(PPT, 31 KB)

  1. 5

    Celebrate and spread

    Share how you've improved processes with others in your practice. This helps build a team culture and strengthen connectedness. Small celebrations of success will contribute to an atmosphere of camaraderie within the practice.

    It's also important to note that not all solutions will work. It is okay to try an improvement and discover that it doesn't work or is not a good fit for your practice. This is not a failure. In this case, a team can celebrate the problem‑solving and learning process.

Lean healthcare
  1. 6

    Sustain

    The final step in Lean improvement is to make the improvement stick. You can encourage lasting change by naming the new process and making it part of standard work for everyone involved. Remind staff of the improvement with visual systems that reinforce the new process, such as a checklist or flow diagram at the point‑of‑work. For example, if the improvement was creating an expanded rooming process for the nurses or medical assistants in the practice, name the new process “Advanced rooming.” Make sure that every clinical assistant's computer has a list of the advanced rooming tasks to remind them how to properly perform each step. Team meetings can also be used to reinforce new processes by providing an opportunity for regular check‑ins that continue to celebrate success and identify additional improvements.

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Leaders as facilitators

Lean improvement requires that leaders shift their approach from being managers who design new processes to facilitators who support problem‑solving and encourage staff to take action. Successful facilitators ask, listen and support the team. Lean thinking shifts leaders from a stance of “command and control” or “design and deploy” to one of discovering and empowering.

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Common vision

Develop a common vision for Lean improvement that rallies leaders and employees around a shared purpose. Examples of unifying statements include, “The needs of the patient come first” at Mayo Clinic and “Our promise to patients: We will know who you are and will be ready for you” at Borgess Health.

To set their common vision, ThedaCare in Appleton, WI, developed a guiding narrative around a fictional patient named “Lori.” Lori is a middle‑aged woman caring for her aging mother, her husband and her children. Lori's needs help focus the work of the organization. For example, in designing a new Lean process to pre‑register patients by phone the staff considers the impact this process will have on Lori.

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Common language

The counterpart to a common vision is a common language. In crafting a common language, some organizations have coined their own terms that suit their Lean improvement activities. For example, “flow‑stopper” could be used to describe any activity that impedes patient flow. Many organizations adopt the nomenclature of Lean, including the tools that are outlined in this module, such as 5S, A3, Gemba and Kaizen event.

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Flow stations

Several clinics have developed “flow stations” as a result of their Lean analysis of work and waste. In a flow station the physician, nurse and/or medical assistant sit next to each other rather than in individual workspaces in separate rooms or down a hallway. The nurse/MA is the “flow master” responsible for directing non‑visit‑based work to the physician in manageable batches. Forms, phone calls and emails are broken down into small blocks that can be addressed in the short intervals between patients throughout the course of the day. This “in flow” Lean approach reduces the inherent waste in unused down time and enables the physician to finish work earlier. Some organizations report that their physicians finish their work 30 minutes earlier when using the flow station configuration.

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Workload balancing and cross‑training: team rather than task orientation

Workload balancing means optimizing task distribution and maximally utilizing the people in a system to improve workflow. Cross‑training of roles allows flexibility, so that when the demand varies workers can “flex,” or adapt, to prevent breakdowns in the flow of work. For example, if three nurses on a team can each room patients and do phone work (e.g., triage, advice calls, etc.) they can quickly shift work to meet the needs of the practice. When the need to room patients is high, all three could focus on rooming. If the phones are unusually busy, they can adjust from one nurse to two nurses answering phones.

Work conceptualized as team‑oriented rather than task‑oriented is easier to flex. In the team‑oriented example above, all three nurses see their roles as supporting the work of the entire team. In a task‑oriented approach, one of the nurses may see herself as the desk nurse who is only responsible for triage and advice, whereas the other two may see themselves as responsible only for rooming patients. Team‑oriented work makes the whole team function more efficiently and with greater cohesion, allowing them to more easily and efficiently meet patient needs.

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Stop the line

Front‑line staff see hazards in the system that may not be apparent to leadership. For example, in a Lean environment, an assembly worker who sees a defect is empowered to “stop the line,” or to shut down the whole assembly line system. The line does not start again until supervisors come to the scene and the defect is addressed. Practices can encourage clinicians and other staff to report near misses or other safety concerns. While an immediate stop may not be feasible in many health care situations, reporting defects for leaders to respond to is still a critical responsibility of front‑line workers.

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Group recognition

Recognition and reward in a Lean culture is often at the group level, rather than at the individual level. With Lean improvements, the focus changes from producing volume (e.g., the number of patients seen) to producing value (e.g., the number of patients who have all of their needs met).

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Situational awareness

Pilots need to see all of the essential data on their control panel at a glance. Health care workers can also benefit from being able to quickly view all crucial information. Line‑of‑sight and visual cues are ways for staff to access this crucial information to help a clinic's efficiency. For example, when the nurse can see the status of each of his exam rooms from his station he will know when a room is free and act on this information to room another patient.

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Visual management system

A visual management system (VMS) is a tool to promote situational awareness. A visual management system uses symbols, colors and pictures instead of text to more quickly and reliably create situational awareness. With this type of system, staff have unmistakable visual cues in their work environment so standards and activities are obvious and a high level of performance is maintained.

Example 1: A clinic call center
A visual management system at a call center might include a yellow screen if an incoming call hasn't been answered in 30 seconds and a red screen if the call hasn't been answered in 60 seconds, alerting all, including managers, to the need to pick up the call.

Example 2: A clinic
In a clinic, a visual management system might be a whiteboard listing physician schedules, staff schedules and roles on a daily basis, how many patients are on each physician's schedule and any indications that a physician is falling behind on patient visits and may need assistance. Similarly, a patient's status during their visit and which team member or service they are waiting for can be communicated to the entire care team with flags outside an exam room door or colored dots in the electronic health record (EHR).

Example 3: An office setting
In a clinic administration office, a visual management system might be a list of key problems and the status of work on each item. In a storage room, a visual management system would include labeling what supplies belong where and when applicable the label will have a corresponding picture of the item. Some clinics and organizations line their halls with data about every aspect of their work, including financial, quality and satisfaction metrics. These data are regularly reviewed and used to drive further improvements. For example, leaders and their direct reports make weekly data rounds in these hallways to talk to front‑line workers and strategize how to make processes better.

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Conclusion

Lean approaches can bring about cultural change. Becoming a Lean organization has several advantages, including: reducing or eliminating waste of time and/or resources, improving overall efficiency and fostering team cohesion. The information in this module will help you identify opportunities for Lean improvements and learn how to enact them in your practice.

Lean healthcare conclusion

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References

  1. Dennis P. Getting the Right Things Done: A Leader's Guide to Planning and Execution. 1st ed. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2006.
  2. Graban M. Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2011.
  3. Graban, M. Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front‑Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2012.
  4. Kenney C. Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center's Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2010.
  5. Liker J, Meier D. The Toyota Way Fieldbook. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2005.
  6. Nickel T, Paluska K, Shuker T, et. al. Perfecting Patient Journeys: Improving patient safety, quality, and satisfaction while building problem‑solving skills. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2013.
  7. Plsek PE. Accelerating Health Care Transformation with Lean and Innovation: The Virginia Mason Experience. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2013.
  8. Shook J. Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor and Lead. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2008.
  9. Sobek DK II, Smalley A. Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2008.
  10. Taylor I, Baker M, Mitchell A. Making Hospitals Work: How to improve patient care while saving everyone's time and hospitals' resources. London, UK: Lean Enterprise Academy; 2011.
  11. Toussaint J, Gerard R. On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 2010.
  12. Wellman J, Jeffries H, Hagan P. Leading the Lean Healthcare Journey: Driving Culture Change to Increase Value. New York, NY: Productivity Press; 2010.
  13. Rother M, Shook J. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprises Institute; 1999.
  14. Womack JP, Jones DT. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster; 2003.
  15. Harter JK, Schmidt FL, Keyes CL. Well‑being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes: a review of the Gallup Studies. In: Keyes CLM, ed. Flourishing: The Positive Person and the Good Life. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association; 2002:205‑224. http://media.gallup.com/documents/whitePaper--Well-BeingInTheWorkplace.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  16. Langley GL, Moen R, Nolan KM, Nolan TW, Norman CL, Provost LP. The Improvement Guide: A Practical Approach to Enhancing Organizational Performance. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey‑Bass; 2009.
  17. Safety Net Medical Home Initiative. Quality improvement strategy part 1: tools to make and measure improvement. http://www.safetynetmedicalhome.org/sites/default/files/Implementation-Guide-QI-Strategy-1.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  18. Blackmore CC, Mecklenburg RS, Kaplan GS. At Virginia Mason, collaboration among providers, employers, and health plans to transform care cut costs and improved quality. Health Aff. 2011;30(9):1680‑1687.
  19. Bush RW. Reducing waste in US healthcare systems. JAMA. 2007;297(8):871‑874.
  20. Collar RM, Shuman AG, Feiner S, et al. Lean management in academic surgery. J Am Coll Surg. 2012;214(6):928‑936.
  21. Endsley S, Magill MK, Godfrey MM. Creating a Lean practice. Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13(4):34‑38.
  22. Kim CS, Spahlinger DA, Kin JM, Coffey RJ, Billi JE. Implementation of Lean thinking: one health system's journey. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2009;35(8):406‑413.
  23. Kim CS, Spahlinger DA, Kin JM, Billi JE. Lean health care: what can hospitals learn from a world‑class automaker? J Hosp Med. 2006;1(3):191‑199.
  24. Mellett C. Moving toward a culture of mobility. Inside View: A look into the world of Health System faculty and staff at the University of Michigan Health System [Internet]. August, 2012. http://uminsideview.org/2271/moving-toward-a-culture-of-mobility/. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  25. Spear S. Fixing health care from the inside, today. Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/2005/09/fixing-health-care-from-the-inside-today/. Published September 2005. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  26. Spear S. Learning to lead at Toyota. Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/2004/05/learning-to-lead-at-toyota/ar/1. Published May 2004. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  27. Spear S, Bowen HK. Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System. Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/1999/09/decoding-the-dna-of-the-toyota-production-system/ar/1. Published September 1999. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  28. Going Lean in Health Care. IHI Innovation Series white paper. Cambridge, MA: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2005. http://www.ihi.org/knowledge/Pages/IHIWhitePapers/GoingLeaninHealthCare.aspx. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  29. ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value. Assessing and Accelerating Your Lean Transformation. Appleton, WI. http://createvalue.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Assessment_HVN_December2011R5.pdf. Published December 2011. Accessed March 9, 2015.
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  31. Deming WE. The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press; 2000.
  32. Lean Enterprise Institute http://www.lean.org/
  33. Michigan Quality System at University of Michigan Health System http://www.med.umich.edu/mqs/
  34. Schutzbank A. The magic is in the measurement. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Medford, MA. http://www.abimfoundation.org/~/media/Foundation/Initiatives/Primary%20Care/HVMA%20Medford.ashx?la=en. Published November 9, 2011. Accessed March 9, 2015.

STEPS in practice

Case 1

How's it working in Ann Arbor, MI?

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Case 2

How's it working in Appleton, WI?

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Case 3

How's it working in Rolla, MO?

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Case 4

How's it working in Boston, MA?

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Tell your story

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Downloadable tools

Go to Resource Library

The tools and resources below can help your practice eliminate waste, improve efficiency and add value for the patient.

Complete starting Lean health care toolkit

Access all the tools and resources in the toolkit.

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(ZIP, 25 MB)

Module Completion

Individual tools

  • Starting Lean health care module

    Download a printable PDF version of this module.

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    PDF, 537 KB

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  • Starting Lean health care PowerPoint

    Use this PowerPoint presentation to review this module with your team.

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    PPT, 23 MB

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  • Team improvement idea worksheet

    Use this worksheet to enable and empower front‑line staff to submit improvement ideas.

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    MS WORD, 40 KB

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  • A3 (one page report) template

    This tool provides a snapshot of your improvement activity to keep all stakeholders and supporting leadership informed.

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    PPT, 100 KB

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  • Cause and effect diagram

    This tool will help the team identify what influences are causing a problem in the practice.

    Download

    PPT, 98 KB

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  • Go and see worksheet

    This worksheet will guide leader observations on the front lines where work is done.

    Download

    MS WORD, 35 KB

    Preview
  • Process map

    Use this tool to customize a process flow map that fits your practice.

    Download

    PPT, 2,134 KB

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  • AMA Wire - Lean Health Care

    Article adapted from the AMA Wire® that summarizes the STEPS Forward module on Lean Health Care.

    Download

    PDF, 149 KB

    Preview

Implementation support

The AMA is committed to helping you implement the solutions presented in this module.

If you would like to learn about available resources for implementing the strategies presented in this module, please call us at (800) 987‑1106 or send us a message.

Implementation Support

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Let us know what's working and what's not working - how can we help you?

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Connect with a practice consultant

Adopting new practices can be challenging. Connect with a consultant who can guide your team through implementation.

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Obtaining CME credits with STEPS Forward

AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ will be available for the activity. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. In order to claim AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, you must: 1) view the module in its entirety, 2) successfully complete the quiz by answering 4 out of 5 questions correctly and 3) complete the evaluation.

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If you have already completed this module, you can claim AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ or receive a certificate of participation through the AMA Education Center.

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