Guest Post – Lean Healthcare Certification

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gemba walk” (lean thinking term) to go to the actual place where value is added + “walkabout” (Australian aborigine) a short period of wandering bush life engaged as an occasional interruption of regular work . Mike Stoecklein . . my employer gave me that e-mail address, but the ideas and opinions below are mine. ——————————————————————————————————————

This post is from my friend, Melissa.  She (and I) would be interested in your thoughts:

Lean Healthcare Certification: The Irony of Lacking Universal Certification Standards


            As an individual who has recently been introduced to lean healthcare, I have learned that there are a few foundational concepts about lean healthcare that are discussed in most texts. First, identifying and removing waste is imperative. Second, continuous improvement based on the Plan-Do-Study-Act methodology is the foundation that is necessary to achieve and maintain results. Lastly, and potentially the most important aspect to learn for a lean beginner, standard work and processes are crucial; without standard processes waste cannot be identified, variation will be unchecked, and there is not a process to study.

            My curiosity about lean healthcare led me to search for “lean certification” programs. I expected to find different certification courses that all offered similar end results. In higher education, there are many providers of degrees, but we expect the end result will be of comparable value without regard to the institution. If two individuals have graduate degrees in Public Health Administration, they will have learned basic competencies that are taught universally, and colleagues can easily know what that degree means and what education they likely received. However, I quickly learned that lean certification is not analogous to higher education because much variation exists in the courses, and no standard exists for what is considered lean healthcare certification or training.

            Lean healthcare has the ability to transform the healthcare industry by shifting the paradigm to be patient-centered while simultaneously decreasing costs and improving the quality. There is one larger caveat; lean healthcare needs lean practitioners who are trained with the best practices in order to implement best practices in their work. Thus, it seems intuitive that lean healthcare certification courses would be standardized in some fashion to promote the best practices. Instead, lean healthcare certification is promoting standard work for healthcare organizations through classes and workshops without having an industry standard for certification. This appears to be one of the most ironic gaps between lean education and lean implementation in healthcare.

There are many courses that offer green and yellow belt lean certification, but the processes and curriculum for the programs all differ. Additionally, the lean certification programs are mainly focused on the implementation of lean in manufacturing, and are typically designed for businesses, rather than individuals. There is an intuitive answer for why programs cater to businesses; teaching lean to everyone at an organization helps facilitate lean thinking at all levels and fosters continuous improvement. This means, however, that individuals that are looking to learn more about lean, gain credentials in lean, or recent college graduates—like myself—who wish to build their practical skills and knowledge are left with few options.

Lean healthcare is about data driven continuous improvement based in performing the best practices. That is why it is painfully ironic that lean healthcare certification programs vary immensely and that lean healthcare education lacks standard requirements for lean certification.

If we look to other industries and certifications, the standard for certifications are usually established and enforced by the government or an accrediting agency. Lean healthcare education should not wait for standards to forced upon them; lean healthcare education should embrace the lean concepts that they are teaching and develop recommended curriculums for lean certification programs based off of the best practices for teaching lean for healthcare.

            Consumers of lean healthcare education should seek out programs that have the best results. In order to determine which lean healthcare certification is appropriate, consumers should be able to compare different programs based on outcomes of those training programs, and by comparing the curriculums to a recommended standard. Without a standard for curriculums, consumers are not able to determine if the course they will be paying for will teach the core competencies lean practitioners and facilities want employees to know. In order for consumers to gain and learn the best lean healthcare practices, they must ask for lean certification programs to raise their standards. The institutions that offer lean healthcare certification must walk the talk and determine the best practices for teaching lean healthcare.

            Until the certification is standardized and best practices are determined, lean healthcare certification will continue to be the most ironic incongruity between lean healthcare education and lean healthcare in practice.

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