A few years ago, I was working with nurses, pharmacists and physicians to understand the chemotherapy administration process at a cancer center. They all had a common problem: Too many screens Way too many. As I observed a nurse as she was walking me through the process of activating a chemo treatment, I noticed she went through 19 screens as she toggled through the multiple systems to access all the information she needed to do her work.
In the lean world, this is described as “overprocessing” waste.
I’ve been a part of a number of IT system implementations where organizations hold out hope that it will solve all the problems they face. Many hospitals, for example, implement new or upgrade old electronic medical record systems to reduce errors and speed up the documentation process. There’s logic here: With electronic records there’s easy access, no file cabinets, no scribbled notes, one centralized hub for information and a much weaker chance it will get lost or delayed. Clearly there are many advantages.
The problem here is the blind reliance on IT systems to solve the complexities of organizational processes. An IT system isn’t going to help if your chemo activation process requires 19 steps because it won’t solve a problem that arises from a complex process. First, we must simplify the processes and base our IT systems on that, not vice-versa.
A prime example: Toyota was among the early adopters of hybrid electric engines and other state-of-the-art technology, but the automaker thoroughly tests anything to make sure it’s reliable and serves its people and processes. If systems aren’t tested they could lead to additional work flow issues. As Dr. Jeff Liker writes in his book The Toyota Way, management should conduct pilot tests to determine if new technology is suitable for the organizations business (or clinical) processes, operations systems or products. Management, Liker writes, also should reject or modify any technology that might cause disruptions or unreliability.
Many organizations, unfortunately, don’t follow that advice.
What kind of issues do you come across using IT systems at your place of work? How do you address them? What would you do differently?