Bringing lean principles to NZ healthcare

17 May 2024 10:00 AM By CIO Studio

How lean management principles—and a steadfast commitment to practical, results-driven solutions—can empower New Zealand's healthcare providers to navigate the complexities of digital technology with precision and purpose.

At CIO Studio, we spend a lot of time working with primary health organisations (PHOs) and non-government organisations (NGOs) from across New Zealand. 

Here’s what we find: Kiwi healthcare organisations are enthusiastic about digital transformation but struggle with a present-day lack of alignment between their IT systems and their business strategy.

This is where we can help. 

CIO Studio is an independent business focused on supporting organisations to truly align their IT strategy with their business strategy. By using lean management principles, and by focusing on real-life challenges and practical solutions, we help New Zealand healthcare providers get digital tech right. 

What is lean management?

Lean management, also known simply as ‘lean’, traces its roots back to post-World War II Japan, with particular influence in the manufacturing sector. Embraced especially by Toyota during the 1950s, lean principles have revolutionised manufacturing, and been adopted by myriad sectors across industry. 

Emphasising continuous improvement, waste reduction, standardised processes, and built-in quality control, lean processes offer benefits such as increased efficiency, improved service and product quality, and ultimately, improved customer value and satisfaction.

Our approach: Lean health

CIO Studio brings a ‘lean’ approach to the healthcare sector, improving efficiency, eliminating waste and inefficiencies, and optimising processes through our focus on continuous improvement—along with the savvy deployment of technology.

Key focuses of lean health include:

Customer Value: Identifying and enhancing activities that directly contribute to patient well-being, such as fast service, effective treatments and wraparound care.

Waste Elimination: Removing non-value-added activities, such as mundane or repetitive tasks, unnecessary motion, excessive waiting, excess inventory, unnecessary processing, and underutilised skills.

Flow: Ensuring processes flow smoothly and continuously, with minimal interruptions or delays. 

Continuous Improvement: Cultivation of a culture of ongoing improvement, where teams continually seek ways to enhance processes, reduce waste, and deliver better patient outcomes.

Simply put, lean health aims to deliver the very best outcomes for patients by optimising practice processes, removing inefficiencies, and promoting an ongoing and never-ending commitment to improvement across the organisation.

Here’s a scenario you can probably relate to: you visit a specialist clinic in New Zealand, and the first thing that happens is you’re given a clipboard and a paper Patient Particulars Form to fill out. 

So far, so good, but here’s the issue: the next time you visit that same specialist, it’s highly likely that you will be given that same form to fill out again

When your third visit comes around? Same form, same clipboard.

It’s a redundant, repetitive and wasteful way of working. 

Toyota calls this type of task muda (‘futility’), a non-value-adding action that has no positive impact on the end result. 

This is the kind of waste that lean processes seek to eliminate.

This is where CIO Studio comes in

CIO Studio is a group of seasoned Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) who understand digital transformation. We help you uncover the root causes of your organisation’s issues, work to develop an actionable plan, and oversee the implementation of it, liaising with the right vendors and partners to build a truly transformative solution for your organisation. 

Paying particular attention to technology, we'll review your IT systems to assess where improvements can be made. If your out-of-date legacy systems need to be improved or replaced, we’ll guide you through that process, working with trusted industry vendors to provide a solution that works for your specific situation—often bringing in new, feature-rich technology for a fraction of what you’re currently paying.

Case study: visualising efficiency - a lean manufacturing example

Let's illustrate this with a real-life case study.

At a practice we recently visited, the nurses were organising upcoming surgical procedures via two whiteboards displayed in their office. 

To stay up to date on the schedule, the reception team had to walk all the way to the nurses’ office—again and again and again—to check the whiteboards, then transferring the information to a whiteboard of their own. 

The surgical team were doing the same, manually, repetitively checking the nurses’ whiteboard to keep abreast of the procedure schedule. 

With no single source of truth available to nurses, receptionists and surgeons, this repetition of effort represented a pointless, time-consuming waste of staff resources. 

To streamline communication and efficiency, we took a lean approach, introducing an electronic scheduling system (at no cost) which displayed the schedule on monitors in each team area. This real-time system, using simple, easy-to-read colour coding, not only provided additional information but also marked a significant leap forward in efficiency, serving as an easily implemented and very cost-effective ‘quick win’ for the group.

This is the lean principle at work, eliminating repetition of effort, enhancing efficiency and improving processes for the benefit of all. By adopting this forward thinking and proactive approach to digital transformation and process improvement, we think New Zealand’s healthcare sector can transform itself in much the same way that the manufacturing industry has.

Working with us

At CIO Studio, we use lean principles to help Kiwi organisations move with the times, stay ahead of the competitive curve and deliver the very best patient care possible. 

We work with your team members—from senior doctors all the way through to junior nurses—to help them drive change, and create a culture of continuous, ongoing improvement.

The result? Teams, systems and processes aligned with your organisational goals, radically improved processes, heightened efficiency, greater staff satisfaction and improved overall healthcare outcomes for patients.

Get in touch with the CIO Studio team to discuss how a systematic and tech-informed approach to digital transformation can help your organisation deliver the very best in patient care.

Angela Whittle
Core Advisor, CIO Studio