10 ways lean strategies support the healthcare workforce and improve healthcare delivery

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Editor's Note: Download the webinar presentation by clicking  here. To view the presentation slides, click  here.


 Hospitals and health systems have the power to transform healthcare delivery and uncover new opportunities using their greatest assets; people.

Renown author and vice president of customer success at KaiNexus Mark Graban, and Gregg Gordon, senior director of strategic consulting at Kronos, hosted a webinar and discussed the "people side of lean strategies" and various staffing techniques to ensure organizations are utilizing their staff to the fullest.

The benefits of using Lean strategies to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs aren't news to anyone who has worked in healthcare in recent years. That said, developing the healthcare workforce within an organization may unlock opportunities to transform healthcare delivery in ways not previously thought possible.

For healthcare organizations, lean strategies mean respecting and supporting employees and engaging them in the improvement process for better results. According to Mr. Graban, lean strategies do so by:

  • Ensuring people have what they need to work
  • Not putting people in broken processes
  • Not driving cost cutting though layoffs which can kill morale
  • Not overburdening people
  • Having proper staffing levels
  • Giving help and support to staff when needed
  • Not blaming people for systemic errors and expecting humans to perform at a superhuman level
  • Letting people do meaningful work
  • Working staff to the level of their licensure
  • Listening and engaging people in improvement processes

When the staff feels respected and involved, it influences their work, improving the patient experience. Mr. Graban invoked the words of former CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, MD, saying, "Lean thinking and true patient-centeredness are not just compatible; they are, at heart, the very same thing."

Additionally, healthcare workers and staff are more likely to take part in various Kaizen, or good changes, in the organization when they feel engaged.

Using the Kaizen process, employees can find opportunities for improvement, discuss the problem, implement and test potential solutions, document their outcomes and then share and celebrate their successes.

The more Kaizens introduced and implemented, the more organizations will see proud, involved employees as well as improvements in patient safety, quality, patient experience and more.

Another big part of respecting and supporting the workforce in healthcare organizations is to make sure the labor aligns with the demand, according to Mr. Gordon.

"Getting the right people in the right places at the right time for the right cost is key," said Mr. Gordon.

Common causes of labor misalignment include changes in census and acuity, planned leave, unplanned absences, staff availability, sitters and low productivity and fatigue.

To avoid these issues and keep employees feeling involved, healthcare organizations should involve the workforce in scheduling and staffing decisions. And consider various flexing techniques that consider not only the skill level but also the source of the workers.

For example, consider a unit that addresses staffing shortage primarily through extra overtime and extensive use of agencies, compared with a unit that leverages the use of extra part-time staff, floaters, and on-call staff. That later approach is more consistent with sound fiscal management and employee satisfaction

According to Mr. Gordon, workforce management technology can help you gain visibility into big data techniques to uncover staffing trends and patterns and is a huge opportunity for healthcare organizations to better utilize their employees. 

To learn more, download the webinar presentation slides here. View the webinar by clicking here. We suggest you download the video to your computer before viewing to ensure better quality. If you have problems viewing the video, which is in Windows Media Video format, you can use a program like VLC media player, free for download here.

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