When I buy a Coleman tent, I am the ultimate judge of satisfaction with the product that Coleman offers. I decide, based on a number of factors, whether I will buy another Colman tent (if the one I have ever wears out).
When I purchase a Lexmark printer, I will ultimately judge my satisfaction with the printer. When the time comes to buy another printer, I will decide whether to buy another Lexmark.
When I go to Carrabba’s Italian Grill and enjoy the Pollo Rosa Maria, I will be the final arbiter of the quality of the meal. I will decide whether to order the Pollo Rosa Maria when I return to Carrabba’s. (Noticeably absent from the discussion is any question about whether to return Carrabba’s. That’s a foregone conclusion. My wife made that one.)
And so it is with most consumer goods and services. Coleman, Lexmark, Carrabba’s and all other producers must ensure they are listening to the customers. To be successful, they must ensure that they are constantly in tune with and responding to our collective voice.
Not so, in healthcare. Here are a couple of personal examples. I’m sure you could add several of your own.
When I go to Jewish Hospital Medical Center East for out-patient surgery, I am so pleased with the services provided by the excellent care-givers there. But, no matter how great my experience, I am not necessarily the decision maker for whether I return. Ultimately, others will make, or at least heavily influence my decision about whether to return to Jewish East for future procedures. My physician may choose to practice elsewhere. My insurance company may no longer include the Jewish Hospital system in its covered providers group. And myriad other factors may prevent me from choosing Jewish Hospital Medical Center for future procedures.
When I had labs drawn at LabCorp in advance of a procedure, I was so pleased with the friendliness of the staff, the cleanliness of the facility, and the minimal wait time that I would certainly choose LabCorp for future tests. But, it will not likely be my choice. A contract negotiated with very little consideration given to my satisfaction will likely determine where I go for future testing.
One of the fundamental tenants of Lean healthcare is to focus on the customer. These examples illustrate that in the application of Lean Healthcare, the patient is not always the customer. Every successful Lean Healthcare improvement event must include a proper consideration of the voice of the customer. Unfortunately, in health care, the customer is often not easily identified. A partial list of “Customers” can include the patient, the patient’s family, the patient’s physician, the payer (private or public), numerous regulatory agencies (private or public), other caregivers and so on. In some extreme cases, these customers have opposing criteria for evaluating the quality or value of a service. Criteria that are important to these customers may be of little or no concern to the patient. So how do we, as practitioners of Lean healthcare proceed?
It’s obvious that if we fail to properly consider the impact of our process improvements on patients, we will fail. So the voice of the patient must always be valued highly. But, Lean healthcare purists, who insist on focusing only on the voice of the patient, while ignoring the voice of other customers, run the risk of alienating those on whom they depend for success.
For these reasons, it is important to be disciplined to include the full range of customers when implementing Lean healthcare solutions. Recognizing, early in the improvement process, that your customer may include more than just the patient, will help your organization to reach a solution that is mutually beneficial to all your “customers”. Engaging these other interests and considering their voices will help ensure that your team’s efforts optimize a greater part of the healthcare delivery system.
This week’s blog is written by Jeff Wilson. Throughout Jeff’s career, he has delivered and applied progressive management and process improvement tools to help organizations reach new levels of performance. The industries span from healthcare to manufacturing, financial consulting and accounting. His experience with Six Sigma and Lean goes back to the early days of his career while working with Colgate Palmolive. Jeff had the opportunity to use process improvement tools as a participant on project teams and was so impressed with the effectiveness of these tools he began to further develop his understanding of and expertise in the implementation and use of them. Throughout his career as a front-line Supervisor, Materials Manager, Logistics Manager and Plant Manager, Jeff has used and championed the use of Lean tools to deliver exceptional results. Most recently, Jeff served in a consultant role with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership where he had the opportunity to support other organizations as they seek to improve processes by implementing Lean. He has developed Lean transformation plans, facilitated Kaizen events and developed training materials for numerous client companies. Jeff has a Bachelors Degree in Economics from Western Kentucky University. He also holds a Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) designation.