Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Natural Match

By Deborah Dolezal
Senior Director, Kaizen Promotion Office
Park Nicollet Health Services
Minneapolis, Minnesota

As a healthcare worker and an implementer of lean, I am often struck by the similarity of the human body and the lean methodologies. They are both systems, each unique part doing a necessary function –

Circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, urinary

Standard work, JIT, pull, one piece flow, mistake proofing, set up reduction, level loading, 5S.

Each function independently is unique in nature but cannot be successful without all parts working together. Each has a strong emphasis on flow and waste removal. When something is not operating properly, no one solution is right for everyone.

If chronic disease strikes, we instruct our patients to apply counter measures – usually involving a new form of standard work and are often surprised when these recommended changes are not immediately embraced, reminding us that change is hard and people need to be part of the solution, using their own creativity to fully define their best outcomes.

Current data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Percent of adults age 20 years and over with high serum cholesterol: 16% (2003-2006)
• Percent of noninstitutionalized adults 20 years and older with diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed): 10% (2003-2006)
• Number of noninstitutionalized adults with diagnosed heart disease: 25.1 million
• Percent of non-institutionalized adults ages 20 and over with hypertension: 32% (2003-2006)
• Percent of noninstitutionalized adults age 20 years and over who are overweight or obese: 67% (2005-2006)
The CDC also tells us that the medical care costs of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75% of the nation’s $2 trillion medical care costs. Experts who have recently testified to Congress say that 30 to 50% of these costs do not add value to patients.
Both the healthcare provider and the lean implementer have similar goals:

• Do no harm
• Add value

Healthcare and Lean - seems like a natural match.

1 comment:

Mark Welch said...


This is a very fine analogy - the human body and Lean. It would have never occurred to me had you not made it so clear. I'm going to share this with some colleagues.

I'm currently working on a little project on how the Lean philosophy matches up well with Christianity, even though Lean has very different roots.

Nice post.