Emergency departments across the US are experiencing increased demands for services while the total number of hospitals and emergency departments are decreasing. To meet these demands, organizations must balance a myriad of components that may include volume, staffing, inpatient capacity, ancillary services, and finances. Healthcare organizations are continually seeking to increase efficiency to assure expedited quality care for their patients.
One option to improve efficiency is the implementation of Lean processes. Lean was originally utilized in manufacturing to eliminate waste and reduce variation. The concept has grown and is now incorporated into a multitude of businesses, including healthcare.
The Lean theory identifies eight types of waste that can be eliminated. The acronym “DOWNTIME” can be utilized to more easily remember each type:
- Non-Utilized Talent
Several of these types of waste are immediately applicable to the Emergency Department: Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transport, Motion, and Extra-Processing.
Lean utilizes a myriad of tools to minimize waste and create efficient processes. Some of these tools are as follows: Kaizens (improvement events), 6S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain, safety), value stream mapping, and daily visual management. Consider Lean a toolbox and the tools can be utilized as needed based on the organizational goal.