Participation in Lean events has renewed my faith in health care

2012-10-26 football huddle

Saskatchewan’s health system is using Lean to improve care for patients, families, and providers.  As a patient, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in several Lean improvement events in Saskatoon Health Region: a Production, Preparation, Process (3P) event and two Rapid Process Improvement Workshops (RPIWs).

Frankly, I was skeptical when I was first approached. I knew the health region was committed to making things better for patients and families. But would I really be treated as an equal member of the improvement team? Would people not only listen to my suggestions, but actually act on them?

For the 3P in December 2011 we all gathered in a warehouse , to learn the basics about Lean and then design an emergency department for the new Children’s Hospital.

It was an amazing week. There were many times it felt like we’d never finish all the work we needed to. But we stuck together as a team.  Not once did I feel anyone was better than anyone else. In fact, it wasn’t until the last day that we actually found out what everyone else on the team did.

I loved this, because it meant that for that whole week, we were all at the same level. We all worked hard toward achieving a common goal: to design the best Adult and Children’s Emergency Department possible – one that would be good for not only patients and families, but also the staff who will work there.  At the end of the week, I felt so proud to have been part of this wonderful experience.

I had the same positive experience with the two RPIWs. The aim of the first was to find a way to reduce the time patients wait in a holding area before being moved to the operating room. The second, just a few weeks ago, looked at the way the region reports patient safety incidents.

At the beginning of the RPIW week, you get some basic Lean training. This is so important.  Both times, I’ve come away with new insights about how continuous improvement is being used in Saskatchewan. It is great to know that whatever changes we decide need to be made are in fact supported and acted upon.  Again, it felt good to know that the others appreciated having a patient involved in the process. They were genuinely interested in what I thought. And I felt comfortable enough to speak up and tell them honestly what I felt was wrong and how I thought things could be improved.

I am now a believer in these processes our hospitals are using to make things better for patients and families. I trust that they have me in mind, as a regular user of the health care system.  I have seen the different changes the region is making as a result of these improvement events. And while some of the processes may still need more work, I know that another patient and or family member will be part of the team to make sure that their important perspective is kept front and centre. We are getting to a point where, even if a patient or family member was not on the improvement team, the staff would speak up on their behalf.

If you’re invited – as a patient or family member — to participate in one of these improvement events, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity. It will be a great learning experience. And it will renew your faith in our health care system. It certainly did for me.

What did you think of this post? Did it affirm your view on the topic? Change your thinking? Let us know, using the Inspire-o-meter below.

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9 Responses to “Participation in Lean events has renewed my faith in health care”

  1. Kevin Flynn
    November 2, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Hi Heather,

    Another Lean consultant shared your blog on Twitter and I am really glad he did. As a passionate practitioner of Lean I am constantly dismayed by so-called Lean initiatives that do not start with the customer. Your experience in Saskatchewan renews my faith in our industry. And discounts everyone who says “it’s too difficult to talk to the customer” and “we already know what the customer wants.” Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

    Kind regards,


    • Heather Thiessen
      Heather Thiessen
      November 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your remarks. I too often found it funny that the customer and in the hospital’s case the patient are not asked what they want or need. I was so happy that my opinion was not only asked for but acted upon. With the Saskatoon Health Region they make sure that patients and or families are always included in their “lean work”. This way I know who ever is helping in projects on our behalf will make sure the patients voice is heard and will be happy.

      Thanks again


  2. Cindy Dumba
    October 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Heather, I’m amazed at times at how similarly we think…..or how similar our experiences are. Just this morning, I had a meeting with a wonderful client rep that has been helping me ( greatly) to convey many issues that I had with my mom’s care in her final days. Many new ideas for change came from our family’s unfortunate experience. Inquiries were made, and policies and procedures were recommended. At the end of our meeting today, the client rep said that she was going to make calls to the appropriate people, to inquire if the changes recommended were now in place. I know that we are so happy to be involved in the planning for change, but do we follow up? I eagerly await to hear from her later this week, and I, like you will happily advocate for positive change. ( I forgot to tell you in my first response that your words “renewed my faith in the health care system” are the words I’ve been looking for, and will borrow at a presentation I’m doing regarding my mom’s/ family’s experience in November) I initially was going to present a very negative story, but over the past 2 yrs., since my mother’s passing, I have seen so much improvement, and so many dedicated people determined to make positive change, that I have had to change my final thoughts at the end of my presentation. I’m hoping our experience can lead to a happy ending for many more patients and their families. Take care…………….Cindy

    • Heather Thiessen
      Heather Thiessen
      November 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      Cindy. Bravo to you!! I am so happy for you and excited for you. Please keep me posted on how it goes. It is so important to let those in healthcare know we do have good stories and happy with the changes. We need to let them know so we can stay focuses and keep on improving. Good luck with your presentation!!!

  3. Dennis Kendel
    October 31, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    It was great to read about your expereince. We need to get many more pateints and families deeply involved in planning the health serices they want and need.

    I hope you will keep sharing future expereinces through this blog.

    • Heather Thiessen
      Heather Thiessen
      November 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

      Thanks so much. I feel it is important to share and help those who may not realize what needs to be done and how patients and families can help in the future of healthcare. Glad you like the blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Stay tuned. More to come!!

  4. Cindy Dumba
    October 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi Heather,
    It’s good to see another great piece from you. I, too, have been involved with our region here in several Lean Improvement projects, and your words ring so true with me. I also was skeptical when I first walked into the initial meeting just over a year ago, but was very quickly impressed with the number of dedicated people in the room who are determined and passionate about making good positive change. you say it all so well……..your words are exactly the ones I would use. I heard you speak in Saskatoon at the Summit, and know you’re a valuable member of the Lean Team. It’s a gratifying feeling, as a patient ( or patient’s family member) to be involved in this process. Isn’t it great to be invited to participate, and even more, to feel so valued as part of a team. I look forward to hearing more. Take care………Cindy Dumba

    • Heather Thiessen
      Heather Thiessen
      October 31, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

      Hi Cindy!!

      So good to hear from you again!! Thanks for your note. I am indeed honoured when asked to participate. It warms my heart when patients and families voices are not only heard but respected. I would like to know more about what does happen when they do the audits after the event I helped in and plan to inquire. That would be the only thing I would ask them to do for us patients and families. As we have a vested interest and need to know if what we helped with is working.

      I appreciate you mentioning my speaking. I was thrilled to do it. I feel it is important for us ( patients and families ) to speak up, for without the healthcare system hearing our concerns, how can we expect them ( healthcare ) to know these concerns and make the necessary changes.

      Take good care Cindy. Thank you for all your hard work as well and keep up the great work.



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