A Physician’s Perspective on Lean

Dr Schmidt

Dr. Tom Schmidt has seen first-hand how Lean methods can help health care teams save lives, save time, and improve the care experience for patients and staff.

Schmidt is Medical Director for Patient Safety at Park Nicollet Health Services in Minnesota. From 2000 to 2006 he was Park’s Chief of Patient Care. During a presentation to the Saskatchewan Medical Association’s Representative Assembly November 2 in Regina, Schmidt said that waste, waits and delays, and medical error are causing preventable harm and death to patients.

In my experience, Lean offers the tools and the discipline to reduce harm and improve patient care by identifying and eliminating waste, balancing the load on already overburdened health care professionals (including physicians), and by striving for zero medical errors,

said Schmidt, who is a consultant with John Black and Associates, the group that is helping bring Lean to Saskatchewan’s health care system. He credits Lean with many improvements in safety and quality at Park Nicollet, including going more than a year without a retained foreign object following surgery, several years without a wrong-side surgery, significant reductions in pressure ulcers, and only one fall resulting in an injury in the past two years. They have also used Lean to increase the percentage of people with optimally managed diabetes, reduce the time from arrival at the emergency department to cardiac catheterization, and to help family physicians manage increasing demands on their time.
The Park Nicollet system employs more than 8,000 team members in medical, professional, leadership and administrative positions.

All physicians must not only be engaged in the transition to a Lean management system in Saskatchewan as a professional duty to their patients, but must take a leading role in effecting this transformation, Schmidt said.

The Health Quality Council videotaped Dr. Schmidt’s presentation and it can be viewed on the Lean and Hoshin Kanri Resources section of HQC’s  YouTube channel.

– Originally published in Transforming Health Care Through Lean – Spring 2013.


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