Healthcare providers are quickly and enthusiastically embracing Lean process improvement principles to cut costs, become more efficient and enhance quality. But there's room for improvement even in the process of improving.
The best ideas don't necessarily flow from management and are just as likely to come from staff members on the front lines of patient care, such as doctors, nurses and technicians. “Those are the folks who have all the knowledge about where the inefficiencies are,” said Dr. Greg Jacobson, an emergency medicine physician and founder of a company called KaiNexus. “But they have no power or medium to change all that.”
KaiNexus' software allows employees at all levels of an organization to share ideas for saving money, generating revenue or improving patient care. Users access the platform through the web or a mobile app. Their suggestions are visible to everyone in the group and ideas can't be submitted anonymously.
“KaiNexus is built on this concept of visibility,” Jacobson said. “It's a big deal. The customers that keep score, you can see it in their data, they do a better job. People start to speak the same language around it.”
The company is used to its platform being compared to an online suggestion box but insists that its technology is much more than that. Managers implement less than 3% of ideas from a suggestion box but carry out more than 80% of ideas that are submitted through KaiNexus, Jacobson said.
“A modern, continuous improvement system is different from a suggestion box,” said Mark Graban, author of Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement and a consultant to KaiNexus. “In a suggestion box model, basically everything bubbles up to a committee. The kaizen model (the Lean philosophy) is based on local teams managing local decisions.”
In addition to the transparency the software provides, it's also designed to be a collaborative rather than a passive tool. Managers have a certain amount of time to respond to an idea and will receive alerts when they haven't done so.
“The speed in which you answer a new idea really matters,” Jacobson said. Otherwise, employees “get disenfranchised and feel like management isn't listening to them.”