One of the core principles of lean thinking is the reduction of waste, which can be defined as anything that doesn’t add value to the customer. Industrial Engineer and Facilitator at the Lean Institute Africa (LIA), Tshepo Thobejane, talks about the different types of waste in healthcare and counter measures that leaders can apply to processes in order to sustain the value gained from lean interventions.

The term ‘waste’ in healthcare refers to a number of areas from over production and poor quality outcomes to wasted time and human potential. To better identify where and when waste is occurring in the public sector, LIA started working with the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) in late 2014 on a pilot project involving four hospitals in the province. The aim was to apply lean thinking methodologies to reduce waiting times for outpatients from their arrival to their departure, through all sites in their patient journey (including file retrieval and pharmacy), while improving quality and patient satisfaction at the same time.

When we kicked off the GDoH project we grouped staff together to form teams and coached them on how to look at the different processes, identify waste within those processes, and come up with counter measures to improve poor performance and productivity.

The infographic below demonstrates how we identified the different types of waste:

Once the hospital staff identified the waste, we carried out five day improvement workshops to measure the before and after and to determine what needed to change to ensure continuous improvement. The next step involved helping the hospital staff develop a daily management system to ensure improvement sustainment.

Although it’s an ongoing system of improvement, the pilot project was extremely successful and evolved to encompass participation from executives and senior leadership from two of the Gauteng hospitals that are now working in partnership with Catalysis and LIA on lean improvement initiatives. Since the hospitals implemented lean staff attitudes have changed; they feel more positive because they can see the change and from removing the waste their workloads have reduced. The staff are also getting more compliments from the patients because of the improved quality of care they are being provided with.

An important component of lean is to help management and team leaders develop leadership behaviours. This is essential for them to support staff and drive the lean transformation that’s required for positive change and adding value to the patient. Lean is really about building people so that they can become problem solvers to add better value by identifying waste.

The Lean Summit Africa 2018, which is taking place from 30 October to 1 November at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, will be a great opportunity for attendees to see how healthcare leaders are effectively applying lean to their working environments; how they started their journey and the lessons they learnt from their failures and success. The theme of this year’s summit is ‘Transforming Organisations and Lives Through Purpose-Process-People’, which illustrates that not only does lean change organisations, but it profoundly impacts people’s lives, from a personal development point of view.

This year LIA has some great local and international speakers lined up who are excited to share and demonstrate their experience with lean. For example, the keynote speakers include Mr Furuhashi, an International Lean Practitioner from Japan; Kim Barnas, the CEO of Catalysis, Healthcare Improvement Centre from the US, and David Brunt, the CEO of Lean Enterprise Academy in the UK. All of the presentations will have a strong focus on management systems and the framework for transformation.

In addition to CEO of Catalysis, Kim Barnas, specifically in the area of Lean Healthcare, the Summit will host the following speakers: CEO Erwin Telemans of CCBRT Disability Hospital in Tanzania, Groote Schuur Hospital CEO Bhavna Patel, and holding two Gemba walks at Hospitals: Leratong in Johannnesburg and Groote Schuur in Cape Town.

The summit aims to present lean management to those who are new to it, and inspire and motivate those already using lean management in their organisations. More information about the Lean Summit Africa 2018, including programme, speaker bios and ticket pricing can be found here.

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