Skip to content

Good OM Reading: Health Care Kaizen

June 29, 2012

Paula’s husband had just come out of open-heart surgery. Laying in the recovery room with a breathing tube in his throat, he was clearly agitated. He motioned at his arms to try sign language, but the limbs would not move. Paula (a nurse at the hospital) began to panic along with him. When the anesthesia wore off, he said his hands and arms were numb–they remained so for weeks. It turns out that when surgeons performed the procedure, they had leaned over the  man and put pressure on his arms. With a single, small improvement, a nurse found that arm sled “positioners” could be used to tuck a patient’s limbs in place while removing the pressure.

This story is just one of 100’s in a new book called Health Care Kaizen, by Graban and Swartz, that describes small improvements made by those who do the work.  Kaizens are low-cost, low-risk process changes that can be easily implemented. The idea, say the authors, is to challenge and empower everyone in the organization to use their creative ideas to improve their daily work. And what better a place to see improvements than in our health care systems!

It is often said that “people hate change.” But in this readable book, we see that people actually love change when:  (1) they are fully engaged in the process, (2) they get to make improvements that help patients, and (3)  they don’t fear losing their jobs as a result of the changes. At one hospital, the CEO offered to shave his head if employees generated ideas that saved $3.5 million that year. The staff responded with $7 million in savings (such as $22,000 by switching from paper gowns to cloth ones) and the boss shaved in public.

At another, the neonatal ICU had automated paper towel dispensers. A nurse noticed babies flinching from the ongoing noise and decided to study the impact of what turned out to be a 50 decibel sound. The kaizen result was manual dispensers which allowed babies to get more rest, thereby gaining weight and getting home sooner–saving $2,000/day ICU fees.

Whether you teach health care OM or are looking for great examples of kaizen for class, this is a book worth reading.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2012 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the kind review! The book is now available and shipping from Amazon and I hope you like the whole book and I’m curious to hear from people who have read it – visit our book’s website at to see kaizen examples and share your own, even.

  2. June 29, 2012 5:13 pm

    Mark, Thanks for the note–and congratulations on a major contribution to the field.

  3. June 29, 2012 7:30 pm

    Your content is excellent. Awesome blog!

  4. July 1, 2012 12:00 pm

    Nice book review … was able to use in the discussion of my current online class!

  5. July 13, 2012 7:41 am

    Solid information, pretty much as I had come to expect from this site… And your OM textbook is great.


  1. “Healthcare Kaizen” In Stock at Amazon; In the News — Lean Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

Supply Chain Management Research

Andreas Wieland’s supply chain management blog for academics and managers

better operations

Thoughts on continuous improvement: from TPS to XPS

%d bloggers like this: