Taiichi Ohno, a prominent figure better known as the father of Toyota Production System (TPS) was also well-known for developing a lean manufacturing framework. The idea behind lean manufacturing is to preserve or increase value with less work done in the production process. Therefore, this also means that anything that does not increase value should be considered waste and therefore be eliminated.

When mentioning eliminating waste in the medical field, initial perceptions are probably that the waste refers to tangible waste, such as organic waste, chemical waste or disposable medical items. However, here we refer to very different types of waste - mostly physically intangible, but very important all the same.

1. Time

Time is undoubtedly an essential aspect of healthcare. Time wastage occurs when patients are made to wait longer than necessary, or when healthcare personnel do not perform the tasks assigned to them efficiently and on time. This not only interferes with the flow of operations, but also has the potential to negatively affect patient experience and satisfaction.

When time is wasted, it reflects a lack of efficiency which translates to low productivity. This may be caused by poor communication or a lack of proper organisation with regards to tasks and resources.

2. Motion

Motion waste occurs when there is excessive and unnecessary movement. An example would be employees needing to travel long distances to get from one place to another, such as between wards or from the front counter to the doctor’s office. This will lead to low productivity, as the staff members could have used the time to work on the tasks assigned to them instead. Usually, the main cause of motion waste is a problematic layout of the workplace. However, it may also happen due to processes that are not well-planned. Addressing this problem may require certain rearrangements or reshufflings to be made in order to facilitate movement as well as provide ease of access.

3. Inventory space

Failure to utilise space optimally will incur inventory and storage costs. A typical example is stocking up on medication, equipment and other supplies excessively. This is not recommended, especially for products with short shelf lives as they will have to be thrown out once they have reached their expiry date. Unnecessary items which take up inventory space are also considered waste. Close monitoring and having a systematic method to organize storage are necessary to address this issue.

4. Talent and skills

The wastage of human potential can occur when the organization fails to recognize and utilize employees’ talents, skills and knowledge. Employees may lack proper training; they may also not be given ample opportunities to realise their potential. It can also happen due to inappropriate role designation, such as assigning an employee to the wrong tasks. The consequence is even greater when employees feel disengaged or unsupported, which could lead to stress, poor performance or burnout.

Minimising wastage is crucial in order to ensure that healthcare operations can run smoothly without incurring extra costs, time and resources to the healthcare institution, but at the same time still maintain the highest level of quality services. Systematic waste elimination can play a role in enhancing employee productivity and satisfaction, but most importantly, the efficiency of operations would in turn create a positive impact on patient experience and safety. MIMS

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McGee-Abe, Jason. “The 8 Deadly Lean Wastes – DOWNTIME”. Process Excellence Network. 12 Aug 2015. Web. 10 Jan 2017. http://www.processexcellencenetwork.com/business-transformation/articles/the-8-deadly-lean-wastes-downtime