Lean healthcare has made tremendous progress in an industry once known for nightmarishly long wait times. A new generation of clinics is coming onto the scene, faster and more productive than their older counterparts.
Now, for those of you lean healthcare folks currently thinking, “Lean healthcare is a good thing? Fascinating, Cam…and in equally groundbreaking news, water is wet!”, a recent experience reminded me that success with lean is not entirely about speed.
I was at an orthopedic clinic after being referred there for a possible broken wrist (trampoline park injury…don’t ask). I’d never been to an orthopedic surgeon before, but my hopes weren’t high. After all, every other specialist I’d ever visited for any health ailment – be it a dermatologist, ophthalmologist, or chiropractor – had been a stereotypically slow and frustrating experience. All I wanted was to get an X-ray, find out if my wrist was broken and if I needed surgery, and be on my merry way.
I went through eight steps:
- Check-in and new patient registration
- Getting temporary dressing removed
- Getting X-rays
- Consultation and X-ray interpretation with doctor (confirmed scaphoid fracture)
- Getting casted with fiberglass
- Final inspection of cast
- Scheduling surgery
I was pleasantly surprised. I never waited for longer than two minutes, nor did any step take longer than five minutes. I was in and out in less than 20, with X-rays of my first-ever broken bone, my first-ever cast and an appointment card for my first-ever surgery. It should be noted too that the place definitely incorporated some aspects of lean. There were kanban boards, matrixes to show staff availability on certain days, thoroughly labeled and color-coded supplies, and more.
I was happy to have been through such a painless process. But at the end of it all something odd happened. I didn’t feel good about the experience I’d just had. I felt lost, unassured and unconfident. Reflecting back on my experience, it started to feel less like being efficient and more like being rushed. The doctor had raced through our consultation, given me minimal-at-best information on the fracture and surgery and even, after handing me the Consent for Surgery contract, stood there eyeing me expectantly, with a clear Just sign it and let me get on with my life! look on his face. I ended up having to call him multiple times in the weeks leading up to the surgery to get my lingering concerns and questions answered. All things that we could have done in our initial appointment.
So yes, it was a highly efficient process. But at the end of the day, it was not a good customer experience. It wasn’t a great feeling for me, as a customer, particularly given that I was about to undergo a surgery on my dominant (i.e. writing) hand.
This experience is a good reminder of one of the cornerstones of lean, and one of the first things I learned when I first came to LEI – efficiency does not equal lean. When I first started learning about lean it certainly SOUNDED like lean was about getting more efficient, and it is. But that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about creating more value for the customer, through focusing on their needs.
So did I want an efficient process for going through my appointment? Of course. They got that part right.
Did that make the experience high-quality and value add for me, the customer? Not entirely.
Would I be okay spending more time at the clinic in favor of a more value add experience? Absolutely.
Just another reminder that the customer is king – never lose sight of yours!