Lean Health Care Transformation: Start Your Journey Today

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Dr. John Toussaint, Chief Executive Officer of ThedaCare Center For HealthCare Value, told attendees of QualityNet that he’s been to more than 140 health care organizations and 50 countries to examine their health care systems.

“Across the world, I’m seeing that we need to do a number of things, including understanding the principles of operational excellence; utilizing model cell development to teach others; following standards; and implementing a different management system,” he said.

How can we improve these systems? Toussaint believes that a lean management and process improvement system originated by the Toyota Motor Company in the 1940s provides a path forward.

Lean management is not actually a program but a transformation initiative that changes how an organization operates and creates a culture of continuous improvement. It requires new skills, habits and buy-in from an entire organization.

In a lean management system, management’s role is to remove barriers, mentor and teach staff, problem-solve and create teams. Leaders must create a “true north” or an organizational purpose that is clear throughout the organization.

To achieve results, “you must first examine the existing process and define the problem before jumping to a solution,” Toussaint said.

Rather than using value stream mapping and tying success to organizational performance metrics, lean health care transformation focuses on learning and collaboration to create an organizational culture that strives to improve the quality of care every day. 

“We have some key things we need to do as leaders in the organization, and one of those is we need to change our behavior,” Toussaint concluded. “We need to demonstrate humility, be curious, improve things and teach others. This is a completely different way of thinking and acting, which is a key part of moving to a new culture of continuous improvement.”