Are you interested in providing higher quality care and a better patient experience, improving the environment you work in and patients flow through, all while supporting staff to do their best work? Standard work might be a great solution. Standard work can help provide predictable outcomes and efficiency in the way you get things done.
How should you start?
There are many articles and a lot of information around how to implement standard work. One vital step in the process of developing standard work is to come up with the current one best way. The meaning(s) behind this packed qualifier (current + one + best) can sometimes be glossed over, but it is a powerful concept. Let’s dive deeper into what this means:
- Current way: This is the best way we know how to do something right now. We hope to find a better way in the future, but for now, this is the way we get the highest quality process outcomes that’s easiest for staff.
- One way: If everyone is doing things the same way, you can eliminate that variable when problem-solving. If everyone is going about the process in different ways, it muddies the water when trying to fix problems if they occur.
- Best way: Agreeing on what we mean by “best” might be the hardest part of this. As you bring the team together – a team consisting of those who actually do the work, and ideally outside eyes, observe and document the steps. If team members have a different order that they conduct a process, or different methods, these are great opportunities to respectfully understand the differences.
How do you decide?
One way to consider this is to put the patient first when at all possible. For example: when developing standard work for registering patients: how can you minimize their wait time and make them feel most comfortable? For processing lab specimens: how can that specimen get analyzed and the results to the physician quickly, so the patient has their results right away, reducing the stress of waiting? For a simple test or procedure: how we can we assure the safest, most comfortable way for the patient?
And remember, it’s not one and done – it’s a cycle. After applying the first round of standard work, decide how you will study and adjust. You could review quality (or other) metrics that this process affects, and let that system dictate when to review. Additionally, you could do periodic, time-based reviews? It’s also important to consider how you will train new staff coming into that process.
Why is this important?
At the end of the day, why does standard work even matter? As a repeatable process, standard work exposes variation. Seeing variation offers the opportunity to acknowledge and reduce or eliminate the variation. Removing variation leads to improving the environment we work in and patients flow through. Ultimately this results in providing higher quality care, a better patient experience, and an environment in which staff are enabled to do their best work.
What reflections and learnings do you have around implementing standard work?
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