The Pursuit of Perfection

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I frequently have had the privilege of working with some incredibly committed individuals and teams in lean healthcare organizations who share a tendency to being “perfectionists”. A previous mentor often reminded me that the journey is not about being perfect, rather the goal is to constantly pursue perfection to catch excellence. In the pursuit of perfection, lean processes are designed with the goal of being ideal. One aspect of an ideal process is that it is delivered 1 by 1 to meet the customer’s demand. Within most hospitals the concept of 1 by 1 is referred to as “patient flow”, a desired ideal state where patients never wait and there are no bottlenecks in care or treatment. To achieve patient flow, lean healthcare organizations need to eliminate waste and standardize work first in each phase of the value stream and then move on to improving the connections between processes. A recent team, facilitated by my colleague Marshall Leslie, demonstrated the application of these concepts in a group of ED patients who require an assessment and referral prior to admission to the hospital. The team reduced documentation by 50% and sequenced the workflow to minimize interruptions for those conducting assessments. Then they looked at the connections and found solutions to shorten response times from an average of an hour to less than 5 minutes by implementing a 1 call process. So, in your own pursuit of perfection, try looking at the steps before and after the value stream connections for the waste to eliminate then move on to improving the connections.


This week’s blog was written by Maureen Sullivan, a senior associate at HPP. Maureen brings over 28 years of healthcare experience in clinical nursing, management and quality leadership to Healthcare Performance Partners. Previously Maureen was the Director of Lean and Quality Improvement for Exempla Lutheran Medical Center and successfully led the implementation of Lutheran’s Lean production system from 2004 to 2008 demonstrating improvements in clinical quality, employee engagement, and financial stewardship. Maureen has an associate degree in Nursing from Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois and a bachelor of science in nursing with an emphasis in healthcare management from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado. Maureen achieved certification from National Association for Healthcare Quality, certified professional in healthcare quality (CPHQ), Colorado State University in process mapping, and University of Michigan in lean healthcare.

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