Health care program inspired by automaker

August 31, 2009

An innovative new educational program teaches health care professionals to use a surprising business model. The Toyota Production System in Healthcare Program, now offered at Penn State DuBois, applies the management techniques of the Japanese automaker to the world of health care.

"We use Toyota's production model because the company is extremely efficient at producing cars," said Suzan Sheehy, director of education, innovation and implementation for Lean Healthcare Systems. "We're applying Toyota's methods to streamline health care practices by looking at patient care and supporting systems as a process."

The Montana-based Lean Healthcare developed the program after studying the efficiency at Toyota's plants and offices. Employees from hospitals, assisted living facilitates and private practices from across the country have taken the course, and many of those facilities have adopted the system. Lean even presented the course for the Health Department of Jackson, Wyo.

"The people taking the course are doctors, nurses, program coordinators and others who are really on the front lines," Sheehy said. "That's how Toyota operates, teaching everyone on every level to work efficiently. If a patient has to sit in the waiting room too long, that's waste. If they're seeing too many different people, that's waste, too."

"The Toyota Production System in Healthcare uses the reVIEW curriculum, which stands for 'realizing exceptional Value in Everyday Work'," explained John Blasdell, assistant director of Continuing Education at Penn State DuBois. "It's a research-based continuous improvement methodology specifically designed for health care. The program is aimed at increasing efficiency, reducing costs and eliminating medical errors. We feel this is a timely, value-added program for the heath care sector."

A total of 16 local health care professionals signed up for the initial course at Penn State DuBois, instructed by Sheehy. Mike Fernan, an assistant administrator for WRC Senior Services in Brookville, said he's getting valuable information from the course that will help his facility run smoothly, even in a bleak economy. "There's a nationwide push to make the most of the resources you have. This class gives us the tools to evaluate our processes so we can make the best of these resources and deliver the best possible care," he said.

For Pat Dunworth, a registered nurse at DuBois Nursing Home, the benefits this system can offer patients is very important. "I like that the course identifies a process, not a person. In health care we tend to focus on the person, and that can make the patient feel like they're the problem."

Sheehy is currently training Penn State DuBois instructors to teach the 21-hour course so that it can remain available to all health care professionals in the region.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 23, 2010