More than ever, hospital leaders must find solutions that generate cost savings and improve quality patient care. One mistake in the broader clinical community is that anything done to cut costs may be considered “Lean,” including staff elimination. True Lean methodology, however, focuses on continuous improvement and the genuine respect for each worker – not their elimination. Here, respect means the desire to see everyone excel and to increase staff morale through cross-level buy-in. In the clinical setting, special attention should focus on physician involvement – a key factor that influences a protocol’s clinical acceptance and long-term sustainability.
We use Kaizen methodology to help identify process improvements for our client hospitals. A clinical Kaizen team consists of a variety of hospital staff, but without physician buy-in, many Kaizen teams find that their process improvement goals get blocked by physicians who are unwilling to change. While physicians’ participation hinges on many factors, studies suggest that physicians are reluctant to participate in process improvement projects for several reasons:
- Fear of hospital motives
- Lack of time
- Doubt that a new system will fix the problem
- Unwillingness to cooperate with other teams
These barriers impede the success of process improvement efforts. To counter such reluctance, executive leadership should enact company-wide initiatives for process improvement based on successful Lean principles used in other industries. When leadership includes physicians in these improvement initiatives and empowers them to lead their teams, new protocols tend to be accepted more quickly, with long-term sustainability.