Lean Manufacturing & Health Care by Chuck Freeman
Lean manufacturing and health care seems like two different concepts that do not belong together. Lean manu
facturing is a concept found in the world of logistics, distribution, and manufacturing. It is a long held idea of, put simply, ridding the process of waste, and leaving value-added processes. This idea can be, and should be applied to healthcare.
Health care was once seeing the local doctor for fevers and coughs - without an appointment, in exchange for a known fee. These were doctor patient relationships built on a foundation of trust, and cultivated over time. It has since morphed into an industry that is complicated, complex, and frankly expensive. Determining if a patient is eligible for services can be time consuming. Filing a claim can be difficult achieve, even with electronic filing capabilities. Charting notes according to meaningful use guidelines can be daunting. So what is the practice administrator to do to?
This is where the benefits of lean manufacturing can come into play. It involves examining a process, and determining what in the process is wasteful and what is valuable. As an example, let us review patient check-ins. Patient arrives, signs the sign-in sheet, and has a seat. Seems simple enough. However, there are gaps. When was eligibility performed? Does the office wait until the patient walk in through the door, or perhaps performs all eligibility verifications the day before. When is co-payment collected? Does the office wait until after the appointment, or collects it prior to the patient encounters the provider. If this is a new patient, does the staff make an effort to collect an email address or sign the patient up for provider's confidential patient portal? By taking the time asking these questions and others, the practice administrator begins to unravel the mystery. The answers to these questions can then guide the administrator to daily processes that ensures patient eligibility with insurers, financial commitments, and meet meaningful use objectives prior to the patient encountering the provider.