Monday, September 1, 2014

Process Improvement in Healthcare

I've been working in medicine a fair amount of time now, and one of the main things I've noticed is how each hospital (even within a system) seems to be its own fiefdom, with its own territory, weighted political hierarchies, farming tenants, and roving populations. With such, the obvious corollary is that each hospital has its own way of doing things, for better or for worse, which may or may not result in great quality. As I am someone who enjoys the zen of simplification down to essentials, I have been wondering as a small cog in the massive wheel of the American healthcare system how to reconcile the obvious disparities between different healthcare providers into a more streamlined system? It is easy to get concerned about trying to do so, because many independent-minded individuals might have the fear that their power or choice would be taken away, but actually standardizing a system of inequities would probably be ultimately more wholly beneficial to more people collectively than it is now. Other industries have implemented process improvement globally, and no one is complaining about less product defects or airline crashes. Right now, depending on location, socioeconomic status, education, personality, basic values, and a dash of sheer luck, one could have a vastly different medical experience and outcome in one place than another. This isn't just on the patient side of things, but also on the provider side, which can be extremely frustrating and an impetus to the perceived quality of one's job. If we could even out the experience, standardize the quest for quality for all participants in healthcare - the crossroads for all extant humans as our lives are dependent upon our health which will fail at some moment in time - then possibly we could raise the quality of our health and perhaps even our happiness.

That's a lofty goal, something to keep in mind. For now though, the more immediate and pressing point is to begin learning a system which may help me/us in my/our quest for unified quality. As a physician, I have made a commitment to start learning process improvement and, hopefully, how it can help my medicine.  I'm beginning my journey here, with a course to become a Green Belt in Lean/Six Sigma. Like an intrepid explorer of yore, I will chronicle my journey and God-willing beyond through this blog. I'm excited for my departure, and will let you know my initial impressions in October.