Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Pushy" Veterinary Processes

This is a continuation of the previous blog “‘Pushy’ Rescue Groups.” We are revisiting the difference between “pull” and “push” systems.

Veterinary practice is, in general, a “pull” system. Our services are initiated (“pulled”) by the client. We don’t go out and fix random pets and, then, hope one of them belongs to one of our clients! However, we have been talking about “external” customers (clients). Within the value stream, there are “internal” customers as well (the person who does work after you in a process or value stream). It is here that we can suffer from “push” systems.

The Lean concept of “pulling” value within the value stream means that each step in the sequence of treating the patient “flows like a river”, as often gets said in the Lean literature. There should be a person (an “internal customer”) ready to perform Step 2 as soon as Step 1 is finished; Step 3 as soon as Step 2 is finished, etc. through the rest of the value stream. Step X pulls from Step X-1 which pulls from Step X-2 which pulls from Step X-3, and so on back “up” the the value stream. Thus, it is said that ”value is pulled ‘up’ the value stream. If Step 3 is not ready and Step 2 sends the patient on, Step 2 is “pushing” the patient “down” the value stream. Since Step 3 is not ready, the flow of the patient stalls until Step 3 is ready. The patient is essentially “warehoused” and has to wait, which is one the types of muda (waste) that Lean organizations are trying to remove from the value stream in order to improve value to the customer (flow).

On a related issue, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt put forth the “Theory of Constraints” which, in part, says that if you want to find the “bottlenecks” within a production sequence, look for piles of work in process (WIP) inventory. You should find a “bottleneck” at the next step. Waiting patients and clients are signs of “bottlenecks” in our sequence of production.

Check for yourself. Do a gemba walk; i.e. go to where the work is done and observe the value stream. If you see patients and/or clients waiting, check the status of the next step in the sequence. Chances are something is delaying the progress of that patient/client at that point. Utilizing 5 Why and problem solving methodologies are indicated to fix the issue.

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