Can the “Lean” approach work in health care?

Based on my experience as a keynote presenter at the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit in Miami on June 16, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

The conference, sponsored by the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value and the Lean Enterprise Institute, was attended by 650 health care clinical and administrative leaders from across the country and beyond. The institute defines Lean as “creating more value for customers with fewer resources.” That can be adapted for health care by saying we aim to create more health while spending less.

Healthcare Transformation Summit

The summit’s meeting room was full of physicians and hospital leaders who are applying lean management principles to create better, more efficient and patient-centered care. Their results were impressive with example after example of better care at lower cost.

These leaders were also impressed by our approach. I was there to share what The Alliance is doing to transform health care from the “buy side” as a cooperative of purchasers. I came away from the Summit even more committed to the work we are doing through initiatives like QualityPath to move market share to physicians and hospitals that deliver high quality care at lower costs.

cheryl demars speaking

As we know, QualityPath by itself won’t be enough to drive the magnitude of change needed to improve care while reigning in costs. We need to learn from Lean and other initiatives to find innovative approaches to achieving high-value health care.

Later this year, we’ll be partnering with the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value to establish experiments in two communities in our service area. The experiments will be designed by the employers, hospitals and clinicians from each community with the goal of discovering what each of us needs to do to get to the goal of zero trend, sustained over three years.

We’ll keep you posted on the results of this experiment. By learning and “Lean-ing” together, we can find better approaches to buying health care.

Cheryl DeMars

Cheryl DeMars

President & CEO at The Alliance
Cheryl DeMars joined The Alliance in 1992, assuming several roles before becoming CEO in December 2006. Cheryl works with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team to establish the strategic direction of the cooperative.

Cheryl participates in a number of national and regional initiatives that align with The Alliance’s mission of controlling costs, improving quality and engaging individuals in their health. She is a board member and former chair of the National Business Coalition on Health. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the board of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality.

Prior to joining The Alliance, Cheryl was a program manager at Meriter Hospital in Madison. She earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read blog posts by Cheryl.
Cheryl DeMars

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