applied properly, of course. The manufacturing and technology industries have been
using many of these methods for decades
with great success, and that success is, in
large part, the reason these things have
begun to enter into the healthcare realm in
recent years. With that in mind, it’s important to give these concepts some attention
for two simple reasons. First, they may assist
you in your day-to-day compliance activities, and second, your peers may already
be using some of these terms and ideas, so
getting on board can only help your interaction with them as compliance professionals.
So let’s tackle a few of these ideas and see
how you could possibly put them to work
for you. I’ve been accommodatingly rolling
up these concepts into the term “continuous
improvement,” but the reality is, all of these
concepts and practices are not identical. Let’s
dive in and take a look at just a few of the
more popular buzzwords when it comes to
This is the general term for those continuous
improvement ideas and practices originally
derived from industrial manufacturing. At
their core, all of these ideas have one main
desire and purpose: the elimination of waste.
Lean thinking is arguably single-minded in
its quest to remove waste and elevate only
the processes and actions that add value.
Value, of course, will be defined by the customer in each situation, and ultimately this
defines waste, by contrast, as well. However,
lean thinking does call out general sources
of waste lurking in every industry, and this
is a quick way to benefit from this ideology.
Motion waste, error waste, and even inventory waste are all enemies of lean thinking.
If you find yourself working on matters that
involve a lot of waste, you should definitely
consider delving deeper into lean processes
to assist you in your endeavors.
Many of you may have heard this in the term
“Lean Six Sigma” so often, you might question
why I’ve broken it out into its own bullet point.
It is true, Lean and Six Sigma share so many
basic tenets that, in some practical ways, they
are synonymous with one another. Still, there
is a slight, but important, difference worth
mentioning. If “waste” is the obsession of lean
thinking, then “variation” would be the nightmare that keeps Six Sigma awake at night.
We accept that in many situations there may
be several ways to do something successfully,
and yet Six Sigma would assert that there is
always a best way to do it, and the process that
produces outcomes with the littlest variation is
probably that. This is especially useful when
applied to patient safety matters, for example,
and any other situations where the absolute
best practice is always preferred.
Though technically not truly a continuous
improvement technique, project management is so often associated with continuous
improvement that it is worth mentioning here.
Probably the vaguest term under examination
at this point of the article, project management is exactly what it sounds like: a method
for managing a project. And yet, this concept
is not without its own specific definitions and
processes as well. In project management,
a “project” could essentially be defined as
a non-routine operation that has a definite
beginning, end, and goal. As apparently obvious as it may be that a project must have a
definite end, how many of us have found
ourselves working on a project to “improve
performance” or “raise standards” without
a measureable finish line? And if so, how