The Thinking Behind Lean Immersion

Purdue Healthcare Advisors (PHA), the applied arm of the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering at Purdue University, has been training healthcare workers in Indiana and across the country since 2005, introducing small-to-medium hospitals, most underresourced, to the power of lean methodologies.

As a university known worldwide for its engineering program, Purdue is no stranger to the role advanced process improvement has played in other industries (automobile manufacturing, aviation, etc.). But the healthcare industry, as bad as it needs lean in today's consumer-driven climate, comes with a specific set of challenges that make it difficult for lean to thrive and grow.

In building PHA Direct, our online learning platform, we relied heavily on feedback from hospitals as to what works and what doesn't. 

Making Lean Affordable

Hospitals and healthcare systems are challenged with finding affordable ways to train enough workers — clinicians, administrators, and the front line — to create an organizational culture change that recognizes lean as valuable and here to stay.

When we first launched the PHA Direct e-learning platform, we did so as a way to enhance our Lean First program. We built an online community of practice to house the many case studies our clients have amassed as we worked with them to build organization-wide lean capability.

As a not-for-profit outreach initiative for the healthcare industry, we knew we wanted PHA Direct to provide us with the capacity to train more people more affordably and more efficiently, while adhering to our rigorous academic standards. We wanted PHA Direct to dovetail with our mission to help organizations build their own capacity for change.

Making Lean Accessible

Providing our clients with the appropriate level of lean training has become our mantra here at PHA. It's hard to get excited about process improvement if you don't know the first thing about it, or if it takes way to long too make change occur. Lean tools such as Rapid Improvement Events (RIEs) and Value Stream Mapping (VSM) are valuable, but we found that these tools aren't right for everybody in an least not at first.

As PHA has worked onsite with hundreds of hospitals, preparing health care professionals for credentialed roles at four levels — Lean Daily Improvement (LDI) Facilitators, Lean Practitioners, Advanced Lean Practitioners, and Lean Leaders — we've found high demand for our baseline LDI training. It's a simple, but highly gratifying approach to process improvement that leaves out the more advanced lean tools (RIEs, VSM, Strategic Doing, Six Sigma) in favor of instruction on how to make systematic, small-step changes while work is being done and to sustain the gains that have been made.

LDI, as an introduction to lean, has really resonated with our clients. In their words:

  • The LDI work is a great system for implementing and hardwiring a well-scoped improvement change.
  • We found the LDIs to be easy ways to see quick improvements with large impacts.
  • Our best tool is the Lean Daily Improvement process. We have been able to make great improvements in short periods of time using it.

LDI is a section of the lean toolbox that can be easily accessed and used on all kinds of projects. Our clients have told us they are taking LDI and running with it. Once they are trained, they don't need our facilitation to keep making improvements.

Making Lean Make Sense in Healthcare

We've learned throughout the years that when metrics aren't being met in a healthcare setting, sometimes it's a process problem and sometimes it's a people-skills problem. Our two-pronged approach — pairing process skills training (lean) with people skills training (soft skills) — helps address factors specific to healthcare (burnout, emotional intelligence, patient engagement, etc.) along with the inefficiencies that negatively impact working life and patient care. Lean Immersion allows us to offer training for Lean Daily Improvement (LDI) and Lean Behavior Change (LBC) together in a completely online environment with the option of project coaching to earn certification. 

It's not a question of if healthcare will adopt lean methodologies, it's a question of when. survey of hospitals on Lean healthcare adoption by the American Hospital Association and the University of Berkeley found that you are not alone in wanting to explore the kind of process improvement that the manufacturing industry has relied on for decades. With Lean Immersion, you can begin your lean journey or enhance the efforts you've made by embedding lean-minded thinkers at all levels of your organization.