A new study conducted by professionals from the University of Michigan Health System has uncovered that lean thinking, pioneered by the auto industry, can enhance education for surgical residents.
The year-long study involved the University of Michigan turning one of its head and neck surgery practices into a laboratory. They set out with the goal of finding whether ‘lean thinking’ techniques could be applied in the operating room in order to improve the service offered as well as improving overall efficiency, finding that the answer was a resounding yes.
Overall, the turnaround between surgeries fell by more than 20 per cent, and measurements conducted on morale, teamwork and effective problem solving all showed a significant increase. Additionally, the number of cases finishing after working hours was reduced, which meant that the hospital paid its staff less overtime.
Surgeon Carol Bradford, M.D., chair of the University of Michigan’s Department of Otolaryngology and the study’s senior author said: “The efficiencies should not only to enable us to reduce waiting times for patients scheduled to have elective procedures, but our results showed staff from scrub nurses to anaesthesiologists are more empowered and teamwork has risen to new heights.”
She added that when the surgeons applied their results to the rest of the hospital, there were thousands of hours in capacity saved which has the potential to save money and create revenue.
The team conducted the experiment by mapping out their normal workflow, identifying critical junctures in the process and working to find root causes for valueless work, which is known as muda in the lean literature, an adaptation of a Japanese term.
They then made measurements of their operational time in surgical rooms in order to provide a baseline for future changes. After lean changes were made, significant improvement was seen in both efficiency and morale. Turnover time fell by nearly one third to 29 minutes while turnaround time dropped by 20 percent to 69 minutes.