June 18, 2018

Patient Centered Strategy: Using Lean to Overhaul the Healthcare Industry

In the world of healthcare, patients are a priority. However, many healthcare systems operate conversely: strategy and management are decided in a vacuum, usually based on the intuition of the CEOs. The lean approach is an entirely new method of strategy that involves rapid plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles, where the needs of patients are tested and immediately acted upon, creating a better patient experience. The lean approach was created with the patients in mind, aiming to enhance their healthcare. This differs from the previous approach on management strategy greatly, requiring immense amounts of effort to define and implement this new technique.
Jeff Hunter was a senior executive at ThedaCare when he first heard of an alternate train of thought regarding management strategy. This new approach to management was completely different to the practices being used at the time, and yet Jeff and his CEO, John Toussaint, pursued the knowledge and understanding of the lean approach. Jeff Hunter was hesitant about this initially, as the immense amount of inertia required to completely uproot and redo the current system was daunting. 
Through enormous effort and time, he mastered his understanding of this particular strategy and management practice and decided to write a book to help others on their journey to understanding and incorporating lean; explaining the many steps, successes, and pitfalls of his own journey. “I was writing this as I was further discovering and developing the system through experiential learning. The content emerged during the writing process,” Jeff muses.

Though ThedaCare already had great coverage in daily management, there was an existing gap in management strategy, and that was where Jeff’s content came into play.
 “The path is not linear, and I frequently had to backtrack. Lean takes time and energy, and there is enormous inertia to overcome. Healthcare systems are also very complex, and, currently, no one organization has completely centered its strategies on patients. But I have experienced enough success to believe it can be done.” Jeff attempts to describe this experience of rerouting the way he understood and thought about something as tacit as management strategy. 
Jeff wrote the book at the urging of the then CEO, John Toussaint, who wanted the book to complement other books on lean strategy. The primary purpose of the book is “to describe the strategic management subsystem that fits within the broader lean management system.” While writing it, Jeff says he often struggled with incorporating more of his story and often had to be pushed away from writing a strictly technical journal. This was useful for him, and he says the writing process made him better. “It made me question what I believe and why I believe it. It made me dig and substantiate. And it made me communicate it in a way that a reader would care.” 
The book has created a platform for both Jeff and ThedaCare from which they can continue to improve and grow. The book was only recently launched but the success of webinars done on the book’s content is an indication of the positive outcomes this book will have on their business.