The healthcare system must be turned on its head

I often have to go to hospital for my diabetes blood tests. My experience with the nurses is always very positive; they’re always friendly. But if I look through my Lean glasses, the world isn’t quite as rose-tinted. People end up spending a lot of time waiting at the hospital, and my fellow patients seem resigned to this fact. You know your turn will come, and haste isn’t rewarded. When I talk to the nurses, they show great involvement in their work. They also see a lot of opportunities when it comes to providing better and faster care for their patients. Based on these conversations and my experience, I have come up with the following three recommendations on how to improve the healthcare system.

Connecting management, doctors and nurses

My first employer from the steel industry made one thing very clear from the start: without knowing what you’re talking about, what you say won’t provide any useful outcomes. The workplace is where the actual value is being added. The best way to find out what moves a company is by engaging in conversation with the people who deal with the customers. In a hospital, these people are the nurses and others who work directly with the patients. The care-giving personnel want to be heard and be involved in the process of improving healthcare. My first recommendation, therefore, is an appeal to the management: make use of your people’s enormous potential to improve by truly connecting and communicating with them.

People give meaning

In the healthcare business, a mistake can have enormous consequences. It’s understandable that healthcare institutes have strict regulations and agreements in place to prevent mistakes. Such agreements include clearly outlined complaint procedures, strict healthcare protocols and treatment plans. These are all examples of traditional process control or result control. But in an organisation where professionals work, these kinds of measurements can have a negative effect. People tend to conform to the system and stop providing their own critical insights. It’s important for professionals to remain critical and retain faith in their own expertise. My second recommendation is to give the people who work directly with the customer ownership of their work.

Independent facilitator

A company’s management often has the tendency to interfere when a solution to a problem presents itself. It’s easy to make a quick decision, but not as easy to make a decision that is supported by everyone in the company. In order to gain overall support for a decision, everyone must feel heard. Assumptions should be tested and the root cause of the problem should be identified before following through with a solution. The key to finding a solution is often found in solving the root cause. My third and last recommendation is to invite an independent facilitator to organise an improvement session. He or she can provide a platform where unvoiced opinions, emotions and beliefs can be discussed. To really achieve improvement and to find lasting and sustainable solutions, existing patterns must be broken and people must leave their comfort zones.

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