A recent news story about a hospital construction project concerns me, as I fear it may be an example of a healthcare organization that doesn’t get lean – and may have spent a lot of money unnecessarily as a result.
The story in the Houston Chronicle involves
The story describes how the 255-bed hospital, which employs 1,200, is going to be spending almost $9 million to improve or repair the roof, boilers, chillers and other equipment. No problem there.
The plans announced by new CEO Keith Alexander also include spending as much as $10 million on computer updates. I’m a bit skeptical about that, but it may be perfectly legitimate and justifiable.
However, the information that really raised my eyebrows was this:
The hospital recently completed a $2.5 million expansion to the emergency department, which now has 40 treatment bays.
'With these improvements we hope to dramatically reduce the waiting time in emergency care,' he said.
The article doesn’t say how many treatment bays there were before the expansion, but clearly the number has increased.
The problem is the mindset that appears to be behind the expansion: If patients spend too much time waiting in the emergency room, it must be because there aren’t enough treatment bays.
I’m guessing it never occurred to the people in charge at this hospital that capacity has as much to do with flow as with physical facilities. They may have no understanding at all that waiting times can be reduced without any expansion.
In fairness, the hospital was also recently recognized as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country that, according to a news release,
…have made the greatest progress in improving hospital-wide performance over five consecutive years (2001-2005). According to the award criteria, the 2006 Thomson 100 Top Hospitals®: Performance Improvement Leaders have set national benchmarks for the rate and consistency of improvement in clinical outcomes, safety, hospital efficiency, financial stability, and growth.
However, that award doesn’t necessarily mean the hospital is a leader in applying lean principles. And if they felt a need to expand facilities to reduce emergency room waiting times, I suspect they aren’t.
What you don’t know about lean can hurt you. Ignorance is not bliss.