Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sea Level

In past discussions I have often likened the unprecedented change we are experiencing in health care, here in Contra Costa County and nationally, to a tsunami. I was wrong. This change is not a series of unrelenting waves. The sea itself is rising and so must we. There is no more waiting. Change is here. We must lean directly into the wind with active pursuit of continuous quality improvement at every level of our system. Adoption of Lean Management and the Model for Improvement throughout our system offers a systematic way of improving efficiency and improving, not compromising, quality.

This should be considered the first in a brief series of posts aimed at providing an overview of our primary strategy to transform our system. I will begin with Lean. In the next post I will discuss The Model for Improvement. I hope to link these discussions to what is happening in your work area and/or experience of our system.

What is Lean anyway?
There are many different variations of Lean in practice so I offer a very limited and generic overview that is consistent with the overall philosophy and reflective of CCRMC's Lean efforts.

Generally, Lean is centered on creating more value with less work. Lean Management is a process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and grounded in W. Edward Deming's System of Profound Knowledge. Lean focuses on reduction of the original Toyota seven wastes in order to improve overall customer value.

Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, "value" is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. Value is defined by the external customer and in our case it's always the patient.

Lean manufacturing is a variation on the theme of efficiency based on optimizing flow; increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and using empirical methods to decide what matters, rather than uncritically accepting pre-existing ideas.

What are we doing at CCRMC and the Health Centers?

Teams of key stakeholders perform an exercise called value stream mapping (VSM). This mapping examines steps in our processes and determines how much value these steps add to the patients experience of care from their perspective. In partnership with users of our health system/community members, teams then imagine/dream the ideal future state and present that to the system.

To begin developing and testing changes that are aimed at realizing this ideal future state a series of rapid improvement events or kaizen events (also known as kaizen blitz) are conducted. In these improvement events several small tests and simulations are performed. Changes are developed and tested with front-line staff and users of our system. Teams in the site where the work actually occurs then implement changes and continue to refine them on an ongoing/continuous basis, pursuing the ideal future state.

The table below displays upcoming events dates

I know this seems like a foreign language, and that's because it actually is.

There is much to learn. We will learn together. We will take one step at a time. If we fall down seven times, we will get up eight. Please ask questions and keep an eye out for updates. Anyone from the Operations Team can answer your questions so please don't hesitate to ask.


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