His principles were first embraced in Japan, and then replicated in the U.S. by an auto industry seeking greater reliability through standardization. One need not go to Japan to figure out that instead of having a dozen different but essentially interchangeable knee replacements available to our orthopedic surgeons, we probably need to get to one or two.
We in healthcare must do the same across the system, stripping needless or harmful variation from our processes to create a system that guarantees high reliability and high quality.
In recent years, many tens of millions of dollars, along with countless other resources, have been invested in processes to reduce variation. The hard truth is: We are not getting there, and we are not getting there quickly enough.
For our organization—Catholic Health Initiatives, with 100 hospitals and other operations in 17 states—scale and scope have provided a tremendous advantage in promoting many of Deming's principles.
Size also has helped the organization sustain the momentum for change and implement a comprehensive, systemwide analytics platform that uses data to decrease variation and reduce hospital-acquired infections, mortality and safety issues. What's more, big data is used to identify any weak areas in clinical care, allowing leaders to create effective plans to address deficiencies.
The goal: Mistake-free outcomes. It's an objective shared by everyone in healthcare.
While we've highlighted just two of the 14 "points for management" from Deming, each of the other 12 are just as applicable in an industry constantly striving to improve its performance.
Adopting a devil's advocate approach to the healthcare landscape, there are still too many executives who pay lip service to these management tenets, not giving them the support they need to take hold and thrive in their organizations. Instead, let's wholeheartedly welcome Deming's wisdom, put his principles into practice, and guarantee the highest-quality care to every patient, every time, everywhere.