Healthcare is a field that can always benefit from more optimizations and improvements, and long wait times are probably the most common complaint among facilities across the whole world. It makes sense too, as in many cases a patient’s need for attention will be urgent – at least from their perspective – while on the other hand, the facility may be overloaded, with physicians working around the clock to be able to treat everyone.
Ensuring that you’re running an efficient facility is often a matter of applying the right lean tools to the situation, and there are many things you can do to make things run more smoothly and ensure that patients don’t have to wait as long.
Correctly identifying cases that need more attention is often the biggest issue to address in a typical healthcare facility, and this is where the biggest wastes of time tend to occur. It’s important to ensure that you have a solid triage process in place that can direct patients to the appropriate part of the facility as quickly as possible.
This may not look like a traditional lean tool, but it actually has some close ties to the way the overall methodology works, and it’s important to pay a lot of attention to your triaging practices if you want to see an effective reduction in wait times.
2. Process Capability Analysis
Identifying the limits of each of your processes is also important, but it may not be very straightforward when you have multiple different processes to deal with, especially ones governed by different physicians. Process capability analysis is something every lean leader should already be familiar with, and it’s a common part of optimizing many types of processes. Applying it to healthcare is not that difficult either, and doesn’t usually require a significant change in your approach.
3. Identifying Bottlenecks
Figuring out where exactly bottlenecks occur is not always easy, especially in a busy hospital with a frantic working pace, but a careful study of the way resources and people flow through different processes can have a huge impact on your overall performance. There are different ways to study this part of your facility, and once you’ve identified a method that works well in your case, you’ll probably be surprised at how many bottlenecks will start popping up on your radar.
Of course it’s not necessary to deal with all of them immediately – it can actually be counterproductive to do so – but addressing the major ones can often change things for the better by a large degree.
4. Reducing Waste
Waste is a huge negative word in the world of lean and Six Sigma, and learning to identify and remove it from your operations is going to become one of your main tasks as a lean leader. A healthcare facility often has a lot of waste in its regular work, and sometimes the situation can be so bad that you may actually be running at less than 50% resource utilization without even realizing it. Figuring out where the biggest points of waste are and addressing them swiftly will allow your employees to treat patients with a better efficiency.
5. Reorganizing Physical Space
Last but not least, you should think about a reorganization of the physical layout of your facility if it’s been awhile since this had been done. A major point of lean and Six Sigma is the way physical layouts shape the overall flow of resources in an organization, and while it can sometimes be difficult to move things around in a hospital, it’s worth a try if the situation allows for it.
Just make sure that this doesn’t come at a cost to the productivity of your physicians, as inconveniencing them for too long is obviously going to cause much bigger issues with the facility than long wait times. Giving everyone a fair warning in advance, and ensuring that there are processes in place to minimize the impact to your employees, is going to go a long way in reducing the negative impact on the facility as a whole. And in the end, you may find some surprising benefits from this reorganization, including increased patient satisfaction!