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Hospitals learn from Toyota

April 10th, 2004 · No Comments

An interesting article in WSJ about how hospitals are adopting techniques from Toyota’s production techniques to cut costs and wait times:

In the factories of Toyota Motor Corp., any worker who spots a serious problem can pull a cord and stop the assembly line…The Toyota system emphasizes the smoothest possible flow of work — accomplished by, say, mapping out work processes and eliminating unnecessary steps, and using teamwork to identify and fix problems as soon as they crop up. Hospitals are using the tactics to reduce patient waiting times, slash wheelchair inventories, prepare operating rooms faster and move patients through a hospital stay or doctor visit quickly, seamlessly and error free.

Some U.S. manufacturers are pushing the Toyota approach from factory floor to hospital ward, as part of their continuing effort to hold down rising employee health-care costs. Local industrial executives, who have been through wrenching Toyota-inspired changes in their own businesses, are promoting the techniques to their counterparts in hospitals.

How Toyota’s production techniques are applied to hospitals:

  • Flow: In a factory, the Toyota approach emphasizes the smooth flow of people, gear and finished goods. In hospitals, it emphasizes rapid flow of patients, staff.

  • Root-Cause Analysis: In a factory or hospital, errors are examined immediately, and countermeasures taken to avoid a repetition.

  • Value Stream Mapping: Workers diagram work processes, aiming to
    eliminate steps that aren’t valuable to customers — or patients.

  • Kaizen: This Japanese term for continuous improvement involves constant small steps to improve efficiency.

  • Tags: Management

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