After a hospital constructs a Value added patient experience, the hospital’s creation of customer focused processes is not complete. The Value added processes and activities must be coordinated. The coordination of Value added activities is the second principle of Lean, Flow. Flow means that the Value added activities and processes have a logical progression constructed to enhance the Value added patient experience. Again, Lean hits a stumbling block in health care with the principle of Flow.
Flow is most conveniently established in settings with processes that are predictable and maintain a stable volume. There are predictable processes in health care, for example, a patient with a broken arm will have their arm set, his or her arm will be put in a cast, and he or she will be given a sling and medication. However, because each type of diagnosis has a different process and each patient has a unique body and needs, there are an infinite number of processes, making processes often unpredictable. Furthermore, although a hospital can predict the number of patients and diagnoses per day, week, month and year by averaging the number of patients and diagnoses seen in the past days, weeks, months and years, the hospital’s volume cannot be accurately anticipated from averages.
With an unpredictable volume and often unpredictable processes, a hospital has to be prepared for all types of volumes and all types of processes, making Flow a seemingly unwieldy principle to apply to health care institutions. However, Lean specialists have directed the creation of successful Flows in hospital settings in recent years, proving that Flow and Lean can improve hospital processes and patient satisfaction. See our next blog post for examples of best practices.Lean Flow