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Aug 22 2016
A Fresh Look at Lean on the Lakeshore
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Our community is, in many ways, at a crossroads.

University of Wisconsin studies have shown that overall community health is determined 40 percent by socio-economic factors, 30 percent by individual behaviors, 20 percent by healthcare and 10 percent by the environment.

Socio-economic factors require governmental, civic, business and community leaders to unite around a common purpose to improve the economy and vibrancy of the community.

Individuals need to embrace awareness of health factors and intentionally make changes. Healthcare needs to focus more on changing itself to add health and value to patients and communities and less on defending the old sick care model. We all need to focus on the environment.  

Recalling a movement two years ago, “Lean on the Lakeshore”  was a team approach with the common goal of improving health of citizens of the Lakeshore. Similarly, many area employers use a LEAN process to reduce waste through a team approach focusing on value added to the customer.

Many of the employers have had spectacular success and have made a real difference. Getting rid of wasted time, resources and activities that don’t add real, sustainable value should sound like a no-brainer. Like getting rid of fat, it’s anything but easy.

Why is it so difficult? For one thing identifying a wasted step first requires willingness to look at something totally objectively and assess its fit with today’s needs, not yesterday’s traditions. That is very hard to do, and realistically can only be done well if someone outside the situation holds the mirror to it using a process producing a clear picture without prejudgment or bias. Remember, one person’s waste is sometimes another’s treasure.

It is also key to commit to act on what you find—steps must be eliminated, resources redirected and measures tracked to sustain gains. Without these commitments progress can’t be sustained. 

Two simple words summarize this approach: awareness and intentionality. Be aware of opportunities and your own blinders and be intentional about taking action, or else react and be left behind.

At our organization, we’ve applied LEAN to everything from how we’re governed to how courier routes are created. The result? BSG Analytics recently cited HFM as the most efficient hospital system in Northeast Wisconsin, and near the top in quality when providing care for businesses and insurers.

Our focus on efficiency in operations and care delivery is a major reason area average annual employer health insurance premiums rose 35 percent less in Manitowoc than neighboring Brown County since 2000.  That’s a competitive advantage to area businesses. The cost needle can be moved, after all.

This reflects the 20 percent that doctors and hospitals impact.  Are there opportunities to apply something similar in the other areas affecting the vibrancy, viability and health of our community? We think so.

Some conversations are already underway, and I look forward to continuing to be part of the solution for the other 80 percent!

Mark Herzog is the President and CEO at Holy Family Memorial.



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