The last couple of months I talked about making the big decision, and then I introduced you to the Gemba Walk. This month, I’m delving into the vital topic of patient throughput and the efficient provision of quality care in O&P. I want to stitch together two powerful tools to show how they can collectively streamline a patient’s journey through your practice.
The stakes are high in O&P care, especially in prosthetic patient care, and more specifically, new patients. It is generally accepted that a day’s delay in getting a patient walking adds about an extra week of rehabilitation. So how do we ensure the gears are well oiled in the machinery of care delivery? The Gemba Walk and weekly work in progress (WIP) meetings are the dynamic duo that help in this mission.
You may recall that Gemba comes from the Japanese word genba,’which means “the real place.” In your healthcare practice, this refers to places where value is created—and value is not limited to a billable event! Regular Gemba Walks are an integral part of continuous improvement philosophies like Lean Six Sigma. They involve observing and documenting processes as they occur, not as you believe or hope them to be.
When you walk the Gemba in your O&P practice, you’re looking to identify any step in your patient care process that’s not running as smoothly as it could be. Are there bottlenecks in patient flow? Delays in insurance verifications? Equipment or supply issues? Each identified inefficiency is a hidden cost to your patient’s health and your practice’s efficiency.
After a Gemba Walk, what do you do with your newfound insights? Here’s where your weekly WIP meetings shine. This is where your admin team can lay down the week ahead and ensure each patient’s journey is mapped out with precision.
In the WIP meeting, you go through the upcoming week’s patient appointments with your practitioners. You verify insurance coverage, confirm that authorization for procedures is in place, check the availability of required supplies, and ensure all resources are allocated for successful patient encounters. It’s a preemptive strategy session that serves as a springboard for the week’s action plan.
But how do you link the Gemba Walk to WIP meetings? Let’s break it down. During your walk, you might observe that certain patients are waiting too long to be fitted for their devices.
You bring this observation to the WIP meeting, flagging the delay issue. Now it’s time for team problem-solving: Why are these delays happening, and how can we stop them before they start?
The meeting generates actionable items to answer those questions. Maybe correcting the delay requires cross-training staff on the authorization process, ordering supplies more efficiently, or tweaking appointment scheduling for better flow.
By addressing the inefficiencies, you not only optimize the patient experience but also potentially improve the patient’s clinical outcome by reducing the time required for rehabilitation.
I encourage you to harness the power of technology via tools like OPIE Software’s WIP:Aim dashboard. This software integration captures every aspect of the patient’s progress, costs incurred, and potential revenue at each stage. When paired with Gemba Walks and WIP findings, it provides a holistic view that can guide strategy for efficiency and better care.
Underpinning all our efforts at OPIE is the Chevron motto: There’s always time to do it right. It’s a culture we’ve ingrained deeply within our practice. By marrying the Gemba Walk with our WIP meetings and reinforcing them with real-time data analytics, we ensure that every decision we make is patient-centric, quality-focused, and economically sound.
In summary, the integration of Gemba Walks and weekly WIP meetings is more than a practice management strategy—it’s a commitment to operational excellence and superior patient care. It’s an acknowledgment that every delay has a human cost and that our responsibility is to minimize that wherever possible. By continuously observing, planning, and acting, we keep the patient’s journey through our practice as smooth and efficient as possible. Because at the end of the day, getting our patients back on their feet quickly and safely isn’t just our job—it’s our mission.