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2013 Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit Wrap-Up

Posted on Jun 07, 2013

The 2013 Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit was an event that could not have helped but give the 600+ attendees hope that there is a path forward for our troubled healthcare system. The event drew attendees from across the United States, Canada and Europe and featured some of the brightest minds in healthcare, process improvement, Lean thinking and operational excellence.

As I have detailed before, Cape Medical Supply has been on a Lean transformation journey for nearly two years. We are focused on delivering more consistent value to the various constituencies we serve and on creating and improving the processes that govern our day to day workflow to ensure we achieve our goal of consistent high quality care delivery and consistently improving that high quality care delivery with participation from an empowered team at all levels of the organization. We are seeing amazing progress being made as we continue to study and improve the organization and our team understands that Lean is not a business fad, management flavor of the month, or simple set of tools - it is a set of cultural norms and expectations that will help us unleash the collective power and promise of our team members...it is quite simply a key part of who we are as an organization.

Here is a very brief set of highlights and takeaways from the event:

John Toussaint of ThedaCare is oft credited with bringing Lean management thinking into healthcare and did a masterful job of kicking off the Summit Wednesday morning. His comments set the tone for the problems that continue to plague the healthcare system - high fragmentation, failure to appropriately engage patients in care decisions and a fundamental failure to deliver consistent value and safety to patients across the various care delivery points that constitute our current continuum of care. His presentation was personal, humble and incredibly efficient at setting the table for why our healthcare systems need to be radically improved and overhauled.

Francois de Brantes of the Healthcare Incentives Improvement Institute focused on the cost of the current system and how our continuing inability to reign in those costs is wreaking havoc on our economy and employees ability to advance financially in the face of such crippling out of pocket expenses. As a small business we feel this pain continuously and it has become a painful reality to see two things happen to us every year: 1. our reimbursement for the healthcare products and services we provide to patients in the community are cut by our payer partners...and in an incredibly frustrating twist of fate 2. the health insurance premium rates paid by our company and employees go up at or near double digits...where all that money is going is clearly a topic for another post. The tail end of Francois' presentation focused on the mandate for introducing additional transparency into cost and quality, with this telling quote striking home - "if there is no transparency you are leaving the door wide open for greed."

I had the good fortune of attending the event as part of a small CEO track and was fortunate to sit with a small group of leaders from healthcare organizations across the world to discuss and review their ongoing efforts at improvement. This portion of the event featured roughly 30 CEO's and senior leaders in an intimate setting with invited speakers and a highly engaging format...time spent in those sessions was intriguing to say the least - most interesting was talking with CEO's of healthcare systems in Germany and the Netherlands about the challenges faced there and how differences in the way healthcare is structured and paid for leads to differences in staffing ratios and system design.

Day 1 wrapped with a presentation from Paul O'Neill - former CEO of Alcoa and Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Mr. O'Neil clearly brought an amazing perspective to healthcare system design and centered his comments on creating an environment in healthcare that was safer for everyone who operated within it - patients and employees.

Day 2 featured additional discussions from leaders on their struggles with Lean implementation, focus on the mistakes often made as Lean is introduced into the organizational management system and challenges surrounding sustaining a high level of change and innovation in an environment where staff is spread incredibly thin already.

The closing keynote was delivered by Jim Womack and he delivered a practical, pragmatic discussion on the challenges facing the healthcare system, the approach to improvement that must be implemented and the societal mandate for improvement...the system continues to cause far too much harm and costs are increasingly a major cause for concern. He also dispelled several common myths about Lean; 1. that it is all about cost saving 2. it is designed as primarily a headcount reduction tool, a means to fire people. Neither are remotely accurate but that myth persists among the uneducated. Lean is about creating more value for the customer and designing systems and processes that empower employees to do the most rewarding work they can and continuously participate in the structure and flow of that work.

The event was attended by a wonderful group of leaders who are together committed to creating and sustaining change and improvement not just in their organizations but in the healthcare system at large. The great majority of the attendees worked in hospitals and integrated healthcare systems; given the share of spending as well as the size and scope of these organizations - their societal and community impact - this was natural. I continue to believe that to effectively transform and improve the healthcare system we need to be working across the healthcare continuum to improve the patient experience - this increasingly means improving and aligning community based care as well as care that happens in more institutional settings. If hospital and health system leaders focus only on that care that is delivered by their team members or those processes that are performed within their facilities, they risk shortchanging the back end of the patient experience and many times the most important part of a patients healthcare interactions - their transition back into their homes. To effectively endure change and improvement we need partnerships, data sharing, care coordination and deep collaboration across the healthcare continuum...I believe the leaders who spent the last few days in Orlando understand that mandate and it is my hope that in future years this event will draw more innovative thinkers from across the healthcare continuum who are committed to improvement and partnership outside their organizations, collaboration that will ultimately lead to enhanced patient experiences and a better aligned healthcare system.

Click here for a review of the summit on twitter #HCSummit13
I would also encourage you to learn more about the summit organizers, The Lean Enterprise Institute and The ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value.