Lean Institute Africa (LIA) is an organisation initiated by Professor Norman Faull in 2007 as part of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town that specialises in promoting the lean approach in the public health sector.

The lean approach was created to increase the delivery of value to the end user – whether a service or product delivery system – by eliminating waste, energy, time and resources. “The lean approach not only improves service but also lowers costs and effort involved,” said Professor Faull in a recent interview with eHealthNews.

From experience working with the programme since the 1980s, Professor Faull identified the relevance and benefits that Lean Management could have on improving the efficiency and workflows of the South African public health system. Over the past 11 years he has dedicated his time to organising workshops to train healthcare staff in improving their daily management system.

Professor Faull believes Lean Management is the pre-automation phase required before the actual automation phase of eHealth. “The first challenge is to change human behaviour to ensure people record information and take responsibility; this is the foundation for implementing an eHealth system,” said Prof Faull.

Professor Faull believes a key issue is that managerial staff and healthcare workers often do not understand their responsibilities. “There must be commitment to a disciplined standardised way of working,” said Faull. Through the coaching and mentorship programmes offered by LIA, a daily management system can be realised by understanding and changing the routine behaviour of staff for improved efficiency and outcomes.

LIA promotes the lean approach through rapid improvement workshops directed at staff working at the coalface in healthcare facilities. “We focus on where delays and waste is happening, and then train staff to identify problem areas and propose counter measures,” said Faull.

LIA’s first healthcare improvement workshop took place in 2007 at GF Jooste Hospital in Cape Town. “The hospital had a terrible folder management issue; on average it took staff eight minutes to locate a patient’s folder, and 40% of the time they couldn’t find it at all. A week after our workshop only 20% of the folders couldn’t be located, and after three months it was down to 0%, taking only two minutes to find a folder – which made an enormous impact on waiting times for patients and efficiency overall,” said Prof Faull.

LIA later worked with NGOs to carry out 19 one week rapid improvement workshops at 18 hospitals for the NDoH. As a result there were drastic improvements in waiting times (reduced to less than an hour) and the utilisation of allocated budgets.

Earlier this month the Gauteng DoH announced plans to partner with LIA to carry out workshops at 36 hospitals in the province.

LIA plans to develop and implement their own digital reporting management system to capture data of what’s been accomplished on a daily basis. “Such a system would also be ideal for all healthcare facilities; this would give DoHs a data set to see what is happening at each facility and for the NDoH to see what’s happening in each district,” concluded Faull.

Lean Summit - EHN

LIA will be hosting the 7th Lean Summit Africa in Cape Town from the 17-19 September, 2014, where renowned local and international thought leaders and prominent practitioners will come together to share core Lean leadership research and best practices.

For more information about the summit, visit their official website.

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