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Cultural Barrier to Efficiency in Healthcare

August 8, 2017





Mark Graban is the author of a book on how hospitals can become more operationally lean by applying a similar lean philosophy as is applied in manufacturing.  He has a 10 year background in manufacturing, and moved into health care in 2005.  Mark sees the same systemic problems in health care with regards to efficiency as he saw in manufacturing (quality problems, unhappy employees, waste etc.).


A significant cultural barrier to improvement in health care is the habit of slow, cautious change, which may be necessary in the science of how to practice medicine, but which isn’t always necessary in process or operational improvements.  According to Mark’s lean philosophy, if there is a low risk to an easily undoable change, there should be a bias to just do it.  


Often in health care, data is missing or is not being collected around a baseline performance, and there may instead simply be what Mark refers to as a ‘big vague concern’.  Many times the starting point in implementing a lean philosophy is going in and collect that baseline data.


Mark sees the difficulty many organizations have in finding the time for improvement.  As a result, in health care there is a bias towards the quick fix of slashing costs and laying off staff, which often results in reduced quality of care and increased costs.  Mark believes instead that the focus needs to be on an overall lean philosophy of increasing throughput, improving processes, and increasing operational efficiencies in order to capture huge opportunities in improvements and cost savings.

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