The use of Lean and Six-Sigma, their combination and other service improvement approaches has resulted in much more effective patient care pathways. A shining example is that of diagnostic medicine and subsequent out-patient appointments, apparently patients can attend for diagnostic services such as imaging and on the same day also attend for their first out-patient appointment. This saves time for all, with expensive imaging technology also proving its worth and RoI by working from 0700-2200.
Trust Boards are well pleased with such progress, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Managers and execs know the lunch (diagnostics and imaging) isn't free, but quantitative aspects aside what does does this mean in terms of quality and assurance? Quality in the sense of:
- patient (and carer) experience;
- staff capacity to find and take advantage of patient learning (self-care, patient health career management) opportunities;
- assessment and evaluation of patient (carer) comprehension;
In information science there is the concept of information compression, taking out the redundancy - repetitive data in an image or text to save on processing, transmission, and storage. As Lean Six Sigma assists teams to remove tasks, processes that do not 'add value' then the result is a richer experience. The patient journey has in this sense been compressed. The patient has fewer hospital and clinic visits with fewer bus, taxi journeys, or they pay less in car park fees. Health personnel and specialists are primed to help and deliver services that really count.
What does this compressed - 'denser' experience - mean though? Does it mean that:
- patient's are exposed to more information (2-3 significant interviews / leaflets / instructions)?
- there is less time available for education, health promotion, info Px giving?
- does this 'value packed' patient journey help by providing rapidly successive hooks - experiential threads to integrate patient (carer and staff!) learning?
Is there an optimal number for 'clinical encounters' before things start to go awry?
PROMS are quite specific (as they need to be initially), but amid richer and varied patient journeys there will be a need for other (national and local) measures. What about the extent and level of 'care complexity' and 'holistic care'?
Lesley Wright on lean thinking and respecting NHS staff, HSJ, Dec 2008.
NHS ready for PROM date. NDS News Distribution Service.
Image source: http://www.navyenterprise.navy.mil/knowledge/tools/sixsigma.aspx