Lean Healthcare Systems Engineering for Clinical Environments: A Step-by-Step Process for Managing Workflow and Care Improvement Projects

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It has been almost 20 years since the Institute of Medicine released the seminal report titled, Crossing the Quality Chasm. In it, the IoM identified six domains of care quality (safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-centric) and noted a huge gap between the current state and the desired state. Although this report received a great deal of attention, sadly there has been little progress in these areas. In the U.S., healthcare still has huge disparities, is inefficient, and is fragmented with delays in care that are often unsafe. Most U.S. citizens are expected to suffer from a diagnostic error sometime during their lifetime, not receive a large fraction of recommended care, and pay for one of the most expensive systems in the world.

Much has been written about quality improvement over the years but many prominent quality and safety experts. Yet progress has been slow. Some have called on the healthcare professions to look outside of healthcare to other industries using examples in nuclear power and airlines for safety, the hotel and entertainment industry for a ‘customer’ focus, and the automotive industry, particularly Toyota for efficiency (Lean). This book by Dr. Oppenheim on lean healthcare systems engineering (LHSE) is a fresh approach that brings forth concepts that systems engineers have used in huge national defense projects. What’s unique in this book is that these powerful system engineering tools are modified to be able to address smaller sized healthcare problems that still involve similar problems in fragmentation and poor communication and coordination.

This book is an invaluable reference for a new powerful process named Lean Healthcare Systems Engineering (LHSE) for managing workflow and care improvement projects in all clinical environments. The book applies to ambulatory clinics and hospitals of all types including operating rooms, emergency departments, and ancillary departments, clinical and imaging laboratories, pharmacies, and population health. The book presents a generic rigorous but not mathematical step-by-step process of integrated healthcare, systems engineering and Lean.

The book also contains the first major product created with the LHSE process, namely tabularized summaries of representative projects in healthcare delivery applications, called Lean Enablers for Healthcare Projects. Each full-page enabler table lists the challenges and wastes, powerful improvement goals, risks, and expected benefits, and some useful descriptions of the healthcare system of interest. The book provides user-friendly solutions to major problems in healthcare delivery operations in all clinical environments, addressing fragmentation, wastes, wrong incentives, ad-hoc and stove-piped management, lack of optimized processes, hierarchy gradient, lack of systems thinking, “blaming and shaming culture”, burnout of providers and many others.