Finding meaning in ‘Lean’?


Initiatives in faculty well-being

The Charter of Physician Well-being outlines a framework to promote well-being among doctors by maximizing a sense of fulfillment and minimizing the harms of burnout. It shares this responsibility among societal, organizational, and interpersonal and individual commitments.5

Table 1. Mapping the charter of well-being to lean management

As illustrated above, we used principles of Lean Management to prospectively create initiatives to improve well-being in our division. Lean in health care is designed to optimize primarily the patient experience; its implementation has subsequently demonstrated mixed provider and staff experiences,8,9 and many providers are skeptical of Lean’s potential to improve their own well-being. If, however, Lean is aligned with best practice frameworks for well-being such as those outline in the charter, it may also help to meet the Quadruple Aim of optimizing both provider well-being and patient experience. To further test this hypothesis, we retrospectively categorized our Lean-based interventions into the commitments described by the charter to identify areas of alignment and gaps that were not initially addressed using Lean Management (Table).

Organizational commitments5Supportive systems

We optimized scheduling and enhanced physician staffing by budgeting for a physician staffing buffer each academic year in order to minimize mandatory moonlighting and jeopardy pool activations that result from operating on a thin staffing margin when expected personal leave and reductions in clinical effort occur. Furthermore, we revised scheduling principles to balance patient continuity and individual time off requests while setting limits on the maximum duration of clinical stretches and instituting mandatory minimum time off between them.

Leadership engagement

We initiated monthly operations meetings as a forum to discuss challenges, brainstorm solutions, and message new initiatives with group input. For example, as a result of these meetings, we designed and implemented an additional service line to address the high census, revised the distribution of new patient admissions to level-load clinical shifts, and established a maximum number of weekends worked per month and year. This approach aligns with recommendations to use participatory leadership strategies to enhance physician well-being.10 Engaging both executive level and service level management to focus on burnout and other related well-being metrics is necessary for sustaining such work.

Dr. Larissa Thomas

Interprofessional teamwork

We revised multidisciplinary rounds with social work, utilization management, and physical therapy to maximize efficiency and streamline communication by developing standard approaches for each patient presentation.

Interpersonal and individual commitments5Address emotional challenges of physician work

Although these commitments did not have a direct corollary with Lean philosophy, some of these needs were identified by our physician group at our annual retreats. As a result, we initiated a monthly faculty-led noon conference series focused on the clinical challenges of caring for vulnerable populations, a particular source of distress in our practice setting, and revised the division schedule to encourage attendance at the hospital’s Schwartz rounds.

Mental health and self-care

We organized focus groups and faculty development sessions on provider well-being and burnout and dealing with challenging patients and invited the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, our institution’s mental health service provider, to our weekly division meeting.

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