Healthcare is THE topic of 2012 across the country as it few things touch people so viscerally. It is very hard to have a discussion, in fact, without battle lines being drawn around politics, personal or professional perspective. There is general agreement that something has to change but little agreement on what and how.
Going to the source
My article in the Harvard Business Review last week, The Healthcare Reform That Can’t Be Stopped, talked about the great digitization that is occurring and the Pandora’s Box this has opened in healthcare. I also made reference to the Toyota Production System being used to varying degrees by healthcare providers. Researching the article was very eye-opening and I decided I had to see for myself. I chose to visit ThedaCare, an Appleton, Wisconsin-based healthcare network.
ThedaCare applied the Toyota Production system to their practice of healthcare starting a decade ago. More than a methodology change, they have changed the culture of the organization so thoroughly that this way of work is now in their DNA. As Dr. John Toussaint of Thedacare put it, “The answer is in. It works. The trick is to know how to get it in.”
Getting it in
ThedaCare is completely organized around the soft skills that are the hardest part to instill in an organization: Creating a culture of respect for people. They do this through a simple image that expresses their core principles and aligns continuous improvement and metrics under each. Everywhere we went, from the lab and call center to their senior living residence, large boards are used to ensure people are aligned with the central goals of the organization.
What makes it truly remarkable is the executive suite that has an entire room dedicated to summarizing these principles and providing the roll up of effort across so many different work groups and departments. The focus, even at the top is clearly on ThedaCare’s front line workers and their ability to solve problems and improve performance. Toussaint asked an excellent question as the final day ended, “How can healthcare make people healthier if there isn’t a system that involves everyone and transparency in measuring performance?”