Healthcare reform may not be the most pressing issue facing the incoming Obama administration, but it is certainly high on the list. Improving healthcare processes ought to be a key focus of those reform efforts – and I worry that it won’t be.
Applying lean and other improvement methods to delivery of healthcare services has already gained strong support in from a range of industry executives, though they are still in the minority. We are rapidly expanding the healthcare management books we publish.
Obama had previously announced his choice of former Senator Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Now he has announced his choice of William Corr to be deputy secretary.
Corr has 23 years experience in politics and government. He used to work for Daschle as the senator’s chief counsel and policy director. Corr also served as chief of staff and principal advisor to Donna Shalala when she was HHS secretary.
Currently Corr is executive director of the private Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Early in his career, he worked in non-profit, community-run health care centers.
The primary battles over healthcare reform will be fought in Congress, so it makes sense that Obama has chosen two people who understand Congress and healthcare issues for these two posts.
However, as Congress debates how to change healthcare funding, what to mandate, and all the other tough issues involved here, it would be tremendously helpful to have input from people who really understand how to achieve healthcare improvement. So far, I’ve seen no evidence that any such people will be involved in the discussions. Daschle and Corr may be very good people with much healthcare knowledge, but I don’t believe they know lean or six sigma.
I take no position on whether Obama’s specific healthcare proposals are good or bad. Like all lean advocates, I focus on process improvement. An improvement effort can succeed only if it is based on good, complete information. The healthcare reform process that will shortly be getting under way does not yet have that information.