LEAN – Your Prescription for Successful Patient Encounters


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By Kathleen Schroeder and Healthcare Intelligence

Because of escalating healthcare costs and the need to decrease medical errors while improving quality, many providers are looking for ways to make the delivery of healthcare services more efficient. One strategy might be found in an unlikely source of inspiration – the same assembly line approach that also originally inspired Henry Ford’s automotive manufacturing.

The concept is LEAN, or Lean Production, a Japanese approach employed by Toyota Production System and that can also be used to help health systems eliminate waste from their current workflows.

There are actually several potential areas of inefficiency where LEAN can be applied to a healthcare contact center:

  • Transport: Transportation takes time. A traffic jam or inclement weather can keep your staff away from their scheduled shift.  Work at home for some agents can help eliminate time spent on the road and increase time available for patient calls.  Work-at-home environments allow agents to log-in immediately and avoid increased abandonment rates. Decreasing the amount of time an agent has to travel leads to optimal staffing – work-at-home agents are more willing to pick up split shifts and cover shifts during another agent’s absence.
  • Inventory: An excess of resources impacts the bottom line, while too few resources impact production! In a healthcare contact center, inventory is a great parallel to staffing and forecasting. Overstaffing and understaffing are very real problems within contact centers unless health systems have a viable work force management system.
  • Motion: Unnecessary movement to accomplish a task is wasteful. When your staff has questions or concerns and can’t effortlessly reach out to other co-workers, subject matter experts or knowledge bases for help, average handle time dramatically increases. Your staff would benefit from having the capability to instant message team leaders and clinical personnel or, in a few simple key strokes, access the information they need to respond to the patent’s request.
  • Waiting: Any time spent waiting for a service is perceived as an inconvenience by a customer. Patients are no different; in fact, the severity of their condition may significantly decrease their willingness to wait. Having the ability to measure the speed of answer and the abandonment rate allows leaders within the contact center to adjust the staffing or key performance indicators.
  • Overproduction: This kind of waste is defined as the creation of excess product. In a healthcare contact center setting, overproduction often occurs when patients are asked unnecessary or repetitive questions. Agents exert additional effort to capture information that is not clinically or financially relevant. Standardized work flows go a long way to streamline patient encounters and decrease overproduction.
  • Over-processing: Over-processing often occurs when unnecessary steps are added to patient facing processes that do not add value. When applied to a healthcare contact center setting, multiple patient transfers can be dubbed as over-processing. With an ACD, proper skill based routing cannot occur successfully. Patients are asked non value-added questions prior to their transfer to another staff member or clinician. An automated phone tree can also decrease over-processing by decreasing average handle time and allowing for workgroups with specialized skill sets, to focus on the value-added service they can provide their patients.
  • Defects: This word needs no definition and has added gravity in the healthcare industry.  Miss-scheduled appointments, bad triage encounters or, an erroneous bill can all have a terrible impact on a patient and their overall experience.  Creating a knowledge base along with quality assurance and quality management can eradicate these errors. A good call recording and analytics program can aid in the development and automation of the quality assurance initiative.

A contact center in the healthcare industry has many parallels with LEAN ideology.  Linking the technology and the processes to this ideology will create a culture that focuses on high performance and efficiency and ultimately superior patient experiences. Let Aspect Healthcare and Healthcare Intelligence show you how to make LEAN a reality for your health system.

Aren’t your patients worth it?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kathleen Schroeder
Kathleen Schroeder, Senior Product Marketing Specialist, has over 25 years' experience representing the voice of the customer through global event presentations, webinars and integrated multi-national campaigns for numerous verticals ranging from education to transportation and tourism to telecommunications. Kathleen creates customer-facing programs and content to bring the value of next generation customer contact solutions to various market segments.


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