The Link Between Lean Healthcare and New Technology

LeanHealthcare_technologylink“What do you do for a living?”

Some responses to that question are very easy – nurse, teacher, lawyer, store clerk, etc.  As a Lean Healthcare consultant, I typically get a follow-up question, “So, what do you actually do?”  My standard response goes something like this:  “I help hospitals and clinics who are renovating existing buildings, or building a new facility with process development for their new space.”  The typical responses I receive, are either a simple blank stare, the occasional “Oh, that sounds interesting,” or sometimes it leads into additional questioning.  It’s always fun talking shop with someone who understands the work you do, but I’ve found when the inquiring person has no understanding of Lean Healthcare, the conversation is sometimes difficult.

Recently, a gentleman sitting next to me on the airplane started a conversation: “So, what do you do for a living?” I gave him my first-level response and continued to make small talk until takeoff.  As we were taking off, I reflected on the conversation.  He had shared a personal story of taking his family member to a healthcare appointment in a new hospital, and how amazed he was by the technology advances.  He wasn’t referring to testing equipment, but rather the use of apps to check-in from his phone, kiosks for patients to take their own vitals, and even real time locating systems that allowed hospital staff to know where the patient was at all times.  His experience was a positive one, which is what every healthcare organization is striving for.

So, the next question, “What do you actually do?”

What do I actually do?  Using the example above, I help healthcare organizations design and develop the processes to go along with all of this new technology.  Technology is great, as long as there is a well-designed process to go along with it.  In a Lean Healthcare setting, Lean principles are used to create these processes, with the following goals:

  • Improve patient and staff satisfaction – focus on practices that add value, reduce wait times, improve communication, diminish process variation and eliminate waste
  • Create system thinking – break down silos to support error-free care
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement – develop problem solvers from the front line to executive leadership

Oftentimes we think the latest and greatest technology is going to provide a positive experience for our patients and save time for our staff, when in reality it may end up causing workarounds that create additional work and dissatisfaction.  Technology is just one example where a defined Lean process is imperative in creating a smooth workflow.  This holds true for any process that involves people, technology, equipment and facility space in existing or replacement buildings.


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.

Image by Freepik

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