Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Toyotaization of Health Care

It's hard to understate the degree to which business managers in almost every field all worship at the altar of Toyota. Their supply chain and assembly processes are viewed as vastly superior not just to other automakers, but to almost all other manufacturers. The Andon cord is the stuff of legends. Kaizen has been taking American upper management by storm. And the story of the company's attempt to break the Ford/Chevy/Dodge lock on the large truck market just further cement's their reputation. So it's no surprise to see an article on Virginia Mason's attempt to bring Toyota's practices to their hospital. The punchline is that lots of hospital processes receive very little management attention, and therefore there's a large amount of low-hanging fruit when it comes to cost and quality imrpovements. This stuff isn't rocket science.

It should be noted that VM is in the Seattle area, which, according to Atul Gawande's piece on health care costs, has relatively low costs, so the culture of local medical professionals is already focused on cost control more than most of the country.

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