Implementing Lean in a Physician Practice

Next, Coté suggests drafting a future state that sets goals for the coming months. When planning, Coté and Cohen caution that practices should carefully prioritize the processes they are going to attack. If they solve the front end of a process before resolving issues on the back end, it only creates another bottleneck.

Once you choose the areas you want to improve, the only thing left to do is go after them, Cohen says. And you don't necessarily have to work with a consultant to do so. "A lot of practices don't have the resources to go through this Lean Six Sigma stuff," he says. "A lot of times you are the team. You do your best at being able to get the people together that need to be involved."

But if you do enlist the help of a consultant, it's imperative that a practice stakeholder is the one who actually implements the changes. "Never have a consultant make the changes," Coté says. "Have them keep you on track and help you make changes properly, but the actual changes and ideas need to come from people who work in the system."

By committing time and resources, it's possible for a physician practice to go it alone.

"The other consultants probably don't want me to say it, but there's a lot of common sense involved in this," says Cohen. "There's a lot of restructuring in what you do. In some practices, it may be more efficient to bring someone in somewhere along the line to bring education, but most practices can handle it on their own."

This article was adapted from one that originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of The Doctor's Office, a HealthLeaders Media publication.

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