The Toyota Production System: What Does It Mean, And What Does It Mean For Health Care?

The principles of lean management, as exemplified in the Toyota Production System (TPS), have achieved legendary status in the world of manufacturing. These same principles are now transforming the world of healthcare. The results include greater efficiency, lower cost, and better patient care.

The extraordinary costs associated with caring for the sick have been spiraling upwards in the United States since the end of World War II. Some factors contributing to these increases include longer lifespans, sedentary lifestyles, and poor dietary choices.

Containing these expenses is a top priority for healthcare providers across the country. Eliminating obsolete, redundant, and inefficient practices is one way to help achieve this goal. Lean management principles are already making substantial progress in this regards by teaching both front-line workers and managers to recognize and eliminate waste from workplace processes.

Lean management principles have enabled hospitals to reduce the time needed to locate patient records and obtain needed supplies by using color coding techniques and mini-dispensaries. Nurses and doctors have found ways to deliver better care faster by streamlining daily practices. Administrators have gone from being detached observers to active participants in the everyday operations of their facilities.

These changes are yielding tangible results. Stanford hospitals and clinics slashed emergency room waiting times by 11% and door-to-doctor waiting times by an amazing 43%. A group of Medicare patients in Appleton, Wisconsin is receiving improved care at reduced costs to the agency. Perhaps most significantly, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has found efficient new ways to manage data without the constant intervention of IT staff. This innovation alone has enabled the agency to achieve its goals while eliminating almost 9,000 billable hours per year from its expenses.

As you can see, lean management principles have much to offer healthcare providers. Achieving the best results, however, requires the assistance of an agency well-versed in applying these techniques to medical settings. That’s where we come into the picture.

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