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5 Common Mistakes When Implementing a Lean Hospital Management System

June 25, 2018 | by Brian Shoenfeld

The process of implementing a Lean hospital management system is similar to gardening. Anyone can perform gardening-like tasks, but to get results from your activity, you need to take the time to build a support system.

In gardening, you need to take the time to measure depth and width, plant in the best soil, use the right tools, consider the positioning of what you are planting relative to the sun, and then follow-through with regular care.

If you do not follow a system or skip a critical step, you will not like the results. And, you’ll end up back at your favorite gardening or home improvement store next season incurring more costs trying the process all over again.

Similarly, many acute care facilities make common mistakes trying to implement a Lean hospital management system instead of practicing Lean. They are driven by efficiency, but they end up wasting time and spending more money in the long run.

The key is looking at your method to determine whether you are practicing true Lean or merely performing superficial “Lean” activities.

Is Your Method Leading to These Common Mistakes? lean hospital management

Acute care facilities often mistake the purpose of Lean. It’s not a means to an end of achieving your desired results such as greater efficiency or a reduction in medication management errors.

Lean is about growing your culture through respect for your people. Through healthy respect for your employees, over time you enable proactive problem-solving throughout your organization. This leads to the results you are looking for.

Just like gardening, you need to take the time to follow the steps required to achieve the results. A disciplined mindset will also help you avoid these common mistakes in Lean hospital management.

Mistake #1: Prioritizing Tools Over People

The tools available in Lean operations are beneficial resources. However, the tools should not supersede your people.

Lean is frequently misunderstood as a set of tools instead of about growing people. Additionally, many of the initial steps of Lean are about teaching people how to work together as a team respectfully.

If you do not take the time to focus on these culture steps of building your team’s people skills and their teamwork within your organization, you will end up only performing “Lean” activity without actually practicing Lean, which is unlikely to be sustained.

Mistake #2: Using Tools the Wrong Way in the Beginning

Another common mistake when starting a Lean journey in acute care facilities is using tools for the wrong purpose of achievement. Again, everything should drive toward growing your people, which then increases their capabilities.

For example, you might begin by having employees create a process flow map to capture a specific workflow in your hospital. The objective of this exercise is not to immediately create the most accurate map. Instead, the objective is for your employees to become more comfortable communicating with each other in a respectful way that leads to deeper dialogue about their challenges, which is what begins the journey towards employee engagement and results.

To successfully practice Lean in your hospital, everyone must think with a mindset of teamwork and long-term continuous improvement. This includes team leaders. Otherwise, employees will lose focus on the key driver of respect for their fellow workers.

Mistake #3: Over-Training on Processes vs. Thinking

Your employees absolutely need to be trained in the processes used in your hospital to ensure safety, accuracy, and compliance. However, if you only train your people on how to be compliant with the hospital’s policies and procedures, then you lose impact.

For continuous improvement to sustain, the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Adjust) cycle needs to take hold. There must be an emphasis on studying what was done and adjusting the processes, if needed, rather than remaining compliant within the ‘Do’ portion of the cycle.

It may take months if not years to build the mentality of continuous improvement. That’s why you cannot neglect training on how to think and you cannot focus only on the training on how to follow processes.

Mistake #4: Managers Do Not Cultivate Communication with Employees

One of the reasons why employees have the mentality of performing for compliance is because they do not receive the right message from their manager. In this case, the employee will likely take the path of least resistance by staying safe performing in the status quo process.

The bottom line is that managers need to spend time with employees cultivating the type of respectful relationship that leads to messages being received correctly to drive positive results.

Similar to gardening, managers cannot take a leave-and-forget approach to employee communication. They need to continuously spend time ensuring growth and development.

Mistake #5: Management Does Not Practice Lean Nor Demand Discipline

The concept of leave-and-forget also applies to your hospital management team. You cannot practice Lean 100 percent if you do not lead by example and demand discipline for following Lean principles. Otherwise, you are just performing activities that produce temporary results.

Once you commit to a Lean hospital management system, practicing Lean is about continuing to grow your people, being engaged, and paying attention to every aspect of the system. This requires management to focus on people and processes — not just results — based on the expectation that people will naturally not remain disciplined on their own. This expectation is not a negative; it’s a fact that needs to be respected about human nature and how people function.

That’s why, out of respect for humanity, your organization needs to build a system that includes discipline and people-driven processes to continuously improve and error-proof your operation so that individuals stick to the process.

Talon Can Address Gaps in Your Lean Hospital System

Practicing Lean is a continual journey. Talon is on the same journey as an organization striving to grow the capabilities of our employees to deliver more value to our clients.

If you know there are gaps in your Lean hospital management system, we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss how we can contribute to your practice of Lean, specifically improving the flow of medicine from Pharmacy and Nursing to the patient.

To get started, contact one of our Client Solutions Representatives today. We would like to help you cultivate the right Lean mindset to support your team, enable process improvement in the flow of medication, and generate the results you are seeking.


About the Author

Brian Shoenfeld

Brian joined Talon in 2014 and brought with him a proven track record for project managing, product development, and increasing operational efficiency. Using his knowledge of STEM, business prowess, and healthcare experience, Brian leads Talon’s operational improvements to create better products and improved customer service. When he’s not in the office, Brian spends time with his wife and two sons and cheers on Syracuse.