Feel Human Again


Graban, Mark; Swartz, Joe;   (ASQ)   KaiNexus, San Antonio, TX; Franciscan St. Francis Health System, Indianapolis, IN

Six Sigma Forum Magazine    Vol. 12    No. 1
QICID: 35322    November 2012    pp. 16-20
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Article Abstract

With the increase in automation in healthcare settings in recent years, medical technologists and other healthcare personnel often feel that they are merely performing menial tasks. Lean management and kaizen are exactly the methods needed to reinvigorate people working in healthcare for the benefit of patients, staff, and entire healthcare organizations. Kaizen is best represented by small, low-cost, low-risk improvements that can be initiated and implemented by those who do the actual work. Kaizen-style improvement emphasizes creativity over capital. This article discusses how, using this approach, Franciscan St. Francis Health System in Indianapolis implemented more than 4,200 kaizen-style improvements (an average of about two improvements per employee) in 2011 alone. In some instances, a hospital may need to spend a little money to improve a process, but more often, it can find simple, effective changes that don't cost much at all. There may be a need for large projects, such as implementing a new electronic medical records (EMR) system, but there's also a great need and a great capacity for small daily improvements, such as how to make more effective use of the EMR after implementation. Two reasons often given for not using kaizen are lack of time and resistance to change; the solutions are to provide time for managers and staff to work on kaizen, and to approach change as being about people improving their own work rather than having change forced on them. The article explores one creative example at Franciscan St. Francis, where young patients undergoing ultrasound procedures often screamed and wouldn't stay still. An ultrasound technician attending a wedding realized that the small wedding favor bottles of bubbles could be used to calm, distract, and entertain the children, resulting in more pleasant patient encounters and higher quality ultrasound images. For the kaizen method to be successful, organizational leaders must practice kaizen themselves; ask people to participate in kaizen on an ongoing basis; and give recognition for improvements that are made.


Kaizen; Hospitals; Health care; Improvement; Creativity; Case study; Healthcare industry

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