Healthcare organizations are bombarded by data. There are seemingly endless reports spewing from overwhelmed IT departments and quality departments are abstracting an ever-growing list of measures that are publicly reported. However, I am amazed at how few directors and managers can answer the simple question, “How do you know if you have had a good day or bad day?” Obviously the answer is going to vary by the type of department or service line, but a well-connected leader should be able to succinctly answer the question.
In the firefight of everyday operations, it is sometimes hard to know if we are winning or losing the daily battle. As a leader, if we do not clearly define success our teams are destined to get pulled in many directions trying to “win” at everything. We end up running around and exhausted at the end of the day, but with an empty feeling unsure of what we have accomplished.
Creating a daily huddle and daily management board are key elements of a well-implemented Lean Management System (LMS). However, many groups struggle with just how to start. What data should be tracked? How many measures should we collect? Where are we going to get the data?
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers or quick fixes. The development of a robust LMS can take months or even years to perfect. However, you don’t have to be perfect to offer improvement over the current level of firefighting. It can be as simple as taking time at the next staff meeting to discuss and agree upon a measure to collect. Remember to keep it simple. Start with a simple measure that fits three simple criteria:
- It is meaningful to the team that works in the area
- It is meaningful to the overall goals of the organization
- It is easy to collect
I recently worked with a group of front desk staff in a clinic to help get the process of daily management started. They were trying to improve their cash collections from their patients and they agreed to track the daily number of opportunities to collect. Where did they get the data? They collected it by hand. Each time they had an opportunity to collect (i.e. the patient had a co-pay) they would mark a chart with either an empty or filled in circle. The team leader would summarize this information daily, and the team would meet to review it the next day before the clinic opened.
From there, the improvement opportunities were obvious. The team would make daily suggestions based on what they had learned from the day before. They were able to make adjustments to the timing (when they asked for money) and the equipment (they needed a second credit card machine at the check-in desk). They were able to improve their rate from 18% to greater than 70% over the course of a couple of months. They implemented many small improvements to make a big difference.
One of the biggest wins for the manager was the teamwork and communication happening among the team. They all had a common goal and worked together to acheive it. The team built in small celebrations along the way (popsicles and pizza). The cost to the organization was small compared to the overall benefit. Best of all, every time we visited the area, the team wanted to show off their progress. They were excited to show that they knew the answer to the question, “How do you know if you had a good day or bad day?”
Today’s blog was written by Tom Stoffel, vice president with Healthcare Performance Partners.
Tom leads healthcare organizations through transformation into self-sustaining Lean enterprises. In addition to hospitals and hospital systems, Tom also leads transformation of subsidiary and independent clinics, physician practices and other outpatient organizations through Lean transformation.
Prior to joining HPP, Tom owned a Lean consulting and training firm which developed healthcare associates through hands-on learning techniques. Tom is an ASQ-Certified Quality Engineer and holds an Engineering Degree from the University of Michigan.