LeanHealthcare_technologyI recently purchased a new car. It talks to me.  The sales representative tried to quickly review the fancy features of the vehicle, but after negotiating for hours, I was more interested in speeding away than listening to him.  I decided I could read the manual at my leisure later to become better acquainted with my talking car.

As it turns out, when you buy a fancy talking car, the manual makes its way to the internet in the form of about 50 short videos.  I made it through the tenth video before I gave up.  Since I could use the important features (gas pedal, radio, blinker, and so forth) I figured if I couldn’t figure something out I would look up the video or call the sales rep.

I’ve had the car for about six months and I’m still finding features that I didn’t know it had. It’s like Christmas once a week!  A car health report?  Who knew?

IT solutions of any kind are often complex and expensive. In healthcare, many Lean Healthcare hospital systems purchase them to solve a particular need (akin to buying a car for driving) without really understanding the system’s full capability (laser-guided cruise control, lumbar support, dual-zone climate control).  The leader who approved the purchase is often focused on making sure the IT solution solves the problem at hand, rather than what more the solution could provide.

As I work with Lean Healthcare organizations on improvement activities, I have discovered most hospitals have a lot of IT capability that is not being utilized.  Recently I worked with a large hospital which had purchased all of the software solutions from a single source to manage their entire health system.  The first improvement event we conducted was related to bed tracking, which was being done manually using spreadsheets and fax machines.

During the future state development, I asked why they weren’t using the bed tracking system that was part of the holistic software solution.  The answer was, “We didn’t buy that piece.”  The manager of Admissions was on the team and stated that, in fact, they had purchased it (she was a trained “super-user”) but, her predecessor had decided it was too complicated and therefore did not use it.  When this was communicated to the executive team during the future state report out, you could have heard a pin drop.  None of them realized they had this very expensive system.  The Admissions Manager was able to program the system and have three units using it by the end of the week.

Once the systems are in use, it is critical to learn the system’s reporting functionality.  On more than one occasion, I’ve worked with Lean Healthcare organizations having issues with medication management equipment.  While the organization is requesting more equipment to meet demand, the reporting function showed that average utilization is generally less than 30 percent.  The sales rep was brought in to teach them how to monitor performance and stock and rotate the medications they were keeping in the stations.  The utilization increased to over 80 percent in the first three months (with no new machines).

As you integrate new IT solutions, take the time to read the manual.  Become knowledgeable about capabilities and performance monitoring.  Provide a setting where your staff will not feel threatened about their lack of knowledge when asking questions.  Lean on the sales rep.  Knowing more about what you have (or will) purchase will enhance efficiency and improve performance.


Linda Duvall, Director for Lean Healthcare and Process Improvement at HPP

Today’s blog was written by Linda Duvall, director with HPP.

Linda leads Lean Healthcare transformation engagements for HPP. She has nearly 30 years of experience in business leadership, program management and lean transformation.  Prior to joining HPP, she worked for Vanguard Health Systems as a process improvement specialist providing leadership and support for regional and hospital level process improvement teams.  Linda holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Evansville.

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