What does Toyota and making cars have to do with healthcare?

While it may seem strange to look to auto manufacturing to improve healthcare, so much of what we do every day involves processes- or a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Toyota, and others in manufacturing, have worked very hard to understand, and systematically improve their work processes. Healthcare organizations are now successfully applying TPS or Lean methodology to improve the way care and services are delivered.

Example in Healthcare

90d0d0ef2e718f8c0d0bf656d8f05902When a patient visits one of our clinics or when you yourself go for a checkup- before you see the doctor/provider to be evaluated and/or treated, there are steps you must go through first (e.g. check in process) and other steps that must be completed when your visit with your provider is over (e.g. check out process) as demonstrated in Figure 1.

The patient’s time with the doctor/provider is considered “value added” because the
To learn more about Lean, click on “What is Lean” on the Home page.
patient’s main goal is to be evaluated and/or treated by the doctor/provider. Time waiting for the next process to begin is “waste” or “muda” (Muda is the Japanese word for “waste”).

Often we find that only a small fraction for the total time and effort actually adds value for the end customer, our patients. By clearly defining value from the customer’s point of view (e.g. patients desire short wait times), all waste or muda can be targeted for removal. In healthcare, there are seven defined wastes.