One of the more counterintuitive aspects of lean is that the best approach may involve spending less money. People tend to assume the most expensive is always the best. But sometimes a simple, low-tech approach produces the most significant results.
With health-care costs soaring in the
The obstacles range from the complexities of insurance reimbursement to regulations designed to protect patients. Another hurdle is cultural: There is a deep-seated reluctance to accept that simpler and less expensive treatments like those used abroad might be good enough.
"We're building Cadillacs, and they're offering us VW Beetles," says William Vodra, who drafted U.S. Food & Drug Administration rules while working at the agency, and now specializes in regulatory issues involving medical products as a lawyer at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C.
One example cited in the article (written by Amy Dockser Marcus) involved appointment procedures at a
"Project Connect" is based on a program used in AIDS clinics in
Another example involved using non-medical personnel to help patients stick with treatment.
For Heidi Behforouz, it has been an education. Dr. Behforouz started running the Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment Project in
The strategy appears to work; according to data PACT collected, total medical expenses for 20 patients fell 40%. But PACT, which is expanding to sites in
Dr. Behforouz presented data to an advisory council that recommended to the Massachusetts State Legislature that community health workers be trained and reimbursed, but the process for approval is likely to take years before it is implemented, if ever. "This is still a nascent field," Dr. Behforouz says. "They don't wear white coats. Their training is different than doctors or nurses. It's hard to get them recognized as health-care workers."
In other words, the biggest obstacles standing in the way of low-tech approaches tend to be cultural. That is so often the case with lean.
By the way, while lean is not mentioned in the WSJ article, I do regard some of what it describes as lean approaches. In the
Have you ever achieved improvement with a low-tech counterintuitive approach? Share your experience below.