Just kidding. They did come. But some things remained the same.

If you’ve had the opportunity to be a part of opening a new hospital or clinic, I don’t have to remind you of the stressful moments.  Even if it’s been several years ago, it probably feels like yesterday.  Yet, hopefully through the sometimes overwhelming moments, the opening day made it worth all the effort. As staff and patients settle into the new facility, many organizations reflect back to their previous facility and wonder why little has changed. Managers are still putting out fires, patient satisfaction hasn’t improved and physicians are still frustrated. It feels like nothing has changed other than supplies are harder to find (and everything looks very clean and nice).

What’s missing? Why didn’t the building make us more efficient, make our patients happier, eliminate supply hoarding, or cause our physicians to be less stressed?

Lean healthcare was missing. Utilizing Lean principles can dramatically improve efficiency, space utilization, staff satisfaction and patient outcomes.

Prior to opening a new facility is the best time to establish visual controls, standardize supply storage and location, create replenishment plans, set par levels, and shed the unnecessary items that tend to accumulate over time.

The use of visual controls is one principle that can prevent defects, wasted motion, excess inventory, and confusion.  The visual control example that I often use when training this principle is the concept of a simple pill box.


Why the pill box? It’s a simple visual control to which anyone who takes vitamins or medications on a daily basis can relate.  I don’t have quite the proficient memory I once had, but I’m certainly not suffering from severe memory loss… however, I struggle every day trying to remember if I have taken my medication.  Once I discovered the weekly pill box, I realized by placing my medication in it one week at a time, I no longer  had to waste time trying to remember if I had taken the med or not.  If it’s not in the box, there is no need to take another.

In a Lean Healthcare setting you can find visual controls from labels, dividers, signage, to tape or floor markers denoting where a piece of equipment needs to be parked.  All of these controls lead to an efficient workplace.

Whether you are building a new facility or not, it’s never too late to put visual controls in place and get your workplace organized.

EinbeckNicole_resizeToday’s blog was written by Nicole Einbeck, lean design consultant with HPP.

Nicole works primarily in healthcare lean led design and facility consulting services, involving improving workflow and documenting new standards. 

For nearly two decades, Nicole has worked across the healthcare field, including human resources, risk management, occupational health, employee health, safety and wellness, and process improvement. She spent five years assisting in the Lean transformation at Monroe Clinic in Monroe, Wisconsin, where she also served as the Clinic’s move project manager and process improvement specialist. 

Nicole holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion/Wellness and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

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