A real example of Kaizen applied to the healthcare industry

We haven’t written about Kaizen in a while now so it is fair to give small definition. As seen on this web page “it is the Japanese word for “continual improvement”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers”.

On this occasion we are going to relate the kaizen philosophy with the healthcare industry because hospitals have been facing the pressure of having higher efficiency and lower costs and they have been looking at kaizen as a way out to their problems. We are going to do it through a medical center that already had the experience. The medical center is called Jupiter Medical Center and this is a part of their experience with the Kaizen philosophy.

One of the first things the hospital saw as an impact of the kaizen philosophy was the reduction of waiting times. The hospital had identified that most of the complaints and bad comments came from waiting times in the hospital and the idea was to improve customer satisfaction and perception. The hospital took the decision to use the measurements scores and the staff to apply small changes in the service and the application forms and times were reduced almost by 60%.

A more clear example was in their breast center area where patient checkings were reduced by 30 minutes and brought customer satisfaction and an increase in new customers by 10%.

In order to arrive to such changes the leaders within the company had to be on board of the kaizen boat and that meant that that had to be active leaders by setting a strong example on their employees and teams. The leaders were responsible for leading the improvement culture and they had to detect the barriers that were affecting and stopping change from going further. The leaders were also responsible for creating a new vision statement, understanding and forecasting the future based on a performance perspective and motivating the staff towards change. In this way all the teams bought the idea and got committed to making change happen.  

Leaders in turn were the ones that have to take all the credit for making the kaizen method successful. Within the Jupiter Medical Center all the team members were given the liberty and possibility to be involved in the improvement strategy and that made them  feel empowered to make the changes they felt were necessary in their fields.  The Kaizen events of course were very important to give a structure to all the ideas everybody had and then, supervised and guided by the leaders, make those ideas a reality in the workplace.  

Other areas where the hospital saw as a positive impact were their saving and expenses. Within the Jupiter Medical center total expenses started to be managed by the leaders and significant changes were seen in just a few months.  The management argues that most of these cost saving ideas came after Kaizen events and specifically in the radiology department, after Kaizen events many ideas came up that could reduce costs and also be included in the  team member performance goals for merit increases.

The radiology team was also a key factor for making the whole initiative of applying the Kaizen philosophy a great success. They first had a great deal of education and information on the Kaizen topic and they were convinced that it was a very good way of making things better for them.

The radiologists started to make progress in communication with the rest of the partners included in the partnership ( Sheridan Healthcare, Jupiter Imaging Associates and Jupiter Medical Center) and the rest of the people got on board when they saw the value of having a good relationship with the radiologists and their results.

Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

Another big question for the healthcare industry is to understand when should hospitals apply methods such as Kaizen, Six Sigma and Lean. It is not a question of when, as it is the worst idea to wait until it is necessary to apply such methods. Hospitals should apply whichever methods works better for them and apply it as soon as possible even if not needed. If you take a good look, Kaizen addresses small changes using small, every day, incremental steps that will have noticeable results after some time; if you look at Six Sigma, it addresses the causes of errors and how to avoid them; and Lean strategies look at how waste can be removed with minimum impact. So, hospitals can choose one or combine them depending on their own needs.

Finally, leaders should understand that in Kaizen environments they have to be a way to get to an answer and avoid jumping to conclusions or giving a straight solution to problems. A leader must have more questions than answers in this process and let the people arrive to their own answers.  

Be sure to also read this article about Big data trends for 2018 that have to be looked at

* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

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