5s for Healthcare

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Healthcare costs are increasing more rapidly than costs for other products and services. Healthcare providers, particularly hospitals, are under significant pressure to reduce costs while at the same time improving service and patient safety, reducing patient waiting times, and minimizing errors and associated litigation. However, most hospitals are not making the necessary improvements in cost, quality, and safety. 20 percent of consecutive inpatient stays were associated with poor quality care, unnecessary fragmentation of care, or both.

As you begin to put together your 5s Lean plan, remember, 5s is not a project. It is a mindset that should be carried out with designed purpose and in a manner that includes every able individual. It is small changes, not just big ones that will help your facility, clinic, or clinical lab become a more functional, clean, and satisfying place for both personnel and patients.

Healthcare organizations, historically, have not been designed to make service processes or a “value stream” of care flow. Healthcare services often use a “batch and queue” process, with patients spending the bulk of their time waiting until a health care professional is ready (i.e., push versus pull with regard to service delivery).

Patient cycle time (the total time from the beginning to the end of a process) in our hospitals, laboratories, and therapy settings becomes a key measurement that needs to improve.

All types of organizations are leveraging Lean principles and tools. Many organizations are trying to function effectively in the face of growing challenges such as a high costs, declining market share, and limited capacity. In all of these cases, Lean can have an immediate, positive impact on business.

Healthcare organizations are made up of a series of processes with diverse services or lines of business. Therefore, you need to build delivery systems with these lines of business in mind. Using Lean Thinking, your organization can achieve a number of benefits, which may include improved quality, increased operational flexibility, reduced cycle time within processes, more efficient use of space, consistent service delivery, reduced lead times, and reduced operating costs.

The five components of 5s are defined as sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. 5s is a method that reduces waste in your work environment through better workplace organization, visual communication, and general cleanliness.

This is one of the primary tools necessary to improve your processes by eliminating wastes such as motion, searching, inventory (queuing) and improve quality and functionality within all departments.

5s Benefits

5s drives a cleaner work environment and organizes the workplace. It is a Lean tool that should be implemented along with process improvements identified when value-stream mapping your business processes. When implementing 5s, you rapidly affect your work or production environment with a minimal expenditure. Most organizations report 5-10% efficiency improvement in several months, which is sustainable over time. 5s provides some of the following benefits:
1. A cleaner workplace for enhanced safety and reduced clutter.
2. An organized, efficient workplace for increased productivity.
3. An always-ready environment that fosters and promotes compliance with regulatory standards.
4. The reduction of inventory and supply costs.
5. The recapture of valuable space and minimizing overhead costs.
6. The impact of “how we feel” about our workplace, organization, and ourselves.

There will be naysayers that may argue that their messiness is beneficial to them; some point to the fact that time spent keeping their environment organized distracts from the important things in their jobs like time analyzing or thinking and defining new approaches to care.

However, they miss the point; truly organized people are not organized just for the sake of order. Instead, their organization is a result of having a process to manage all of the things in their lives. These folks avoid the repeated distraction paper or e-mails in their inbox by having a clear approach for handling all of the responsibilities in their lives. By managing things effectively, they avoid clutter and chaos.

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