Hanging from a thread – Lean Healthcare

A light blue ribbon is the symbol for prostate...
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Background

It seems that Lean Healthcare is getting a lot of exposure here as of late.  I will qualify this by saying “in practice” rather than “name”.  The Toronto Star published yet another article, Sunnybrook cuts wait for prostate diagnosis down to 72 hours, that once again demonstrates that improvements can be made if we put our minds to it.

The Need to Change

The need to change is premised on this excerpt from the article:

“But after the needle biopsy . . . it was like my future was hanging from a thread. It was hell.”

And later …

“Men have waited too long,” says Dr. Robert Nam, a Sunnybrook uro-oncologist who is spearheading the accelerated prostate protocol.

“They wait two to three weeks. And two to three weeks knowing that they could have a live-altering disease is something to me that is not acceptable.”

Why – Beyond Reducing Wait Time

Aside from the emotional strain, hidden from view or otherwise, cancers are always best treated when they are detected early:

While many prostate cancers are slow-growing – some are left completely alone — others are aggressive and benefit from immediate treatment.

“There is a big misconception that prostate cancer is such a slow-growing disease that we don’t need to rush into anything,” Nam says.

How did they do it?

The goods news is that they already had a model to work from:

In a new program that mirrors one launched two years ago for rapid breast tumour diagnoses, Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has now pledged to give men the results of prostate cancer biopsies within three days.

They also procured new equipment and found efficiencies in the way that results were processed:

The diagnostic acceleration will be accomplished mainly by “finding efficiencies” among hospital pathologists who examine the biopsied tissues and determine the presence and severity of the ailment. Nam says any priority shift in the hospital’s pathology department – which expects no staff increase — will not mean other forms of cancer get shorter shrift.

Room to Improve

As mentioned earlier, Sunnybrook had a surrogate model to follow but there is still room to improve:

Men will still have to wait three times longer for their results than women, who are promised a breast cancer diagnosis within a day of being biopsied.

It’s NOT about the money!

I share this information on the premise that we are continually reminded, at least here in Ontario, that we simply don’t have the resources or the funds to improve health care.  I become increasingly frustrated by the misconception of our government that we are already as efficient as we possibly can be.

“We made it cost neutral and . . . we did not jeopardize any other program within the pathology department,” he says.

I am thankful that Sunnybrook Hospital staff have demonstrated yet again that real opportunities for improvement can be made without incurring additional expense to the system.

It’s the Culture

The significance of the effort here is not just the idea itself but the culture that allows these ideas to flourish.  Sunnybrook Hospital clearly supports improvements from within and outside the hospital and is also quite eager to share them as evidenced in our previous post, Lean – Sunnybrook Doctors Benefit from Gaming Technology.

I am currently reading “Toyota Under Fire” by Jeffrey K. Liker and Timothy N. Ogden where once again it is confirmed that Toyota’s culture is at the very core of it’s resilience and ability to adapt and change to meet the current crisis at hand. Clearly, the economic crisis we still find ourselves having to contend with is cause to pause and reflect on how we can indeed adapt and change to meet our every day challenges in our personal lives, business, industry, and governments alike.

There is much to be learned and so much more to be gained.  We must learn to watch and listen and at the very least acknowledge that there is always a better way.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics
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