Poka Yoke Hospital Example: Don’t Steal My Pen

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I went to the doctor’s office today for a nagging back pain I’ve had for a month.  It turns out that I herniated a disc and that’s why my left leg has had a sharp electric-shock-pain for the last 30 days.  I should have gone in sooner.  Why didn’t I?

Anyways, at check-in, I saw this simple way to prevent theft – if anyone had any inclinations to steal their pens, pencils, or any writing utensils, this is a sure-fire way of creating a disincentive for stealing their stuff. There are other ingenius ways to implement Poka Yoke in medicine also. This simple example was a good way to identify poka yoke opportunities.


Would you want to stick that in your pocket?  Is it worth it?  Making stealing uncomfortable is a simple way to poka-yoke a process.

Poka-Yoke Steps

  1. What is the process? Patients pay their co-payment at the hospital through debit card or credit card, which requires a signature for payment authorization.  A signature is made with a pen.
  2. What is the defect or failure mode? In this example it is that patients steal pens after using them to sign the credit card authorization slip.
  3. 5 Whys – why do patients steal the pens? Sometimes patients steal the pens inadvertently or they steal on purpose.
  4. What can be done to warn the operator before making the error or prevent them from making the error? In this example, the patient steals pens.
  5. Countermeasure? Make it difficult for the patients to steal pens.

What have you seen in everyday instances that apply principles from Lean Thinking?

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