Tired of Waiting to Stop the Waiting: The Social and Personal Costs of Medical Waiting Times


It is something so fundamental to Process Excellence practitioners — the waste represented by having to wait for a process to do its thing — that having to continue to see examples of how companies, professions and governments just don’t get it is both a head-shaking reminder of how completely different lean experts view the world as compared to those who have not yet drunk that Kool-Aid, as well as a trigger for a mixture of frustration, anger and renewed determination to continue to spread the word.

The occasion for the most recent spasm of hope/frustration was listening to Alisa Siegel’s excellent radio documentary the “Waiting Room” that aired on CBC Radio’s The Current.  If you’re interested at all in process, healthcare or just the idea that things can be done much, much better than please give this a listen: http://www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=2695087941

The focus of Siegel’s documentary are the stunning results of The Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre (GRDC) at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre which

helps people quickly find out if they have breast cancer. Most breast changes are not breast cancer. Getting a diagnosis quickly means that many people will spend less time worrying. For those who find out they have cancer, it means getting treatment sooner.

Using fundamental lean techniques they have cut the waiting time from many weeks to a single day. This reduction in total lead time not only reduces the human costs of waiting but, we PE experts know, reduces total system costs and increases total capacity/throughput volumes.

In addition to the success of the Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre, the documentary describes other efforts to reduce the wasted time and resources, the “muda,” from health services. One of them, is the McCain Centre for Pancreatic Cancer at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

The McCain Centre for Pancreatic Cancer provides rapid diagnosis and coordinated care by a dedicated, inter-professional team across all specialties.

For patients and their families, this integrated approach is already transforming care delivery by significantly reducing to one week the time required from referral to treatment planning. Previously, this process took many weeks and multiple visits.

You many of you know, the technical solutions to so many problems are quite simple, it is changing mental paradigms that is the tough slog but, there is no alternative but to keep slogging.

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