Compulsory Lean for Finnish Health and Social Care providers?

Public finances are in crisis, and tax money is being consumed by rapidly proliferating Health and Social Care (HSC) costs. Yet patient queues tend to lengthen. To tackle the productivity challenge, HSC needs a boost beyond that offered by the forthcoming HSC reform. Should Lean be declared mandatory for HSC service providers?


The HSC reform should expedite integrated, customer-centric care processes

For the Finnish economy, spending on HSC is like pouring money into an ever-deepening pit. Availability of care requires more and more resources as the population ages and the dependency ratio increases. HSC production needs to become much more efficient. Increased competition and the freedom to choose service providers due to HSC reform will, wisely implemented, create welcome incentives to improve productivity and effectiveness.

However, productivity leaps can be achieved only if we rethink the core processes and start to design, implement and continuously improve customer-centric well integrated HSC processes.

The principles of Lean demonstrate a proven track record in boosting HSC service productivity

In terms of improving HSC service productivity, Lean principles are global best practices. Moreover, Lean has also proven itself in Finland, e.g. in the triage of the HUS’s Jorvi hospital, or in the TYKS Sapa public utility’s laboratory processes. The results benefit the service providers, employees, tax payers and, most of all, the customers. So should Lean be rolled out in all Finnish HSC organizations?

Looking at the benefits from a service provider’s point of view, we see a positive development in all areas of a traditional balanced score card:

– Lead times decrease,
– Customer satisfaction increases,
– The competence of the personnel develops and motivation improves,
– And, turnover and profitability improve.

On a broader note, Lean also supports attainment of the IHI Triple Aim targets of healthier populations, improved patient experience, and reduced costs of health care per capita.

Lower work pressures for HSC employees and taxpayer savings

For HSC employees, Lean offers greater opportunities to influence and predetermine their own work, and to engage in multi-professional cooperation. All of these decrease work strains and anxieties. And when work pressures decrease, nurses and other employees have more time to take care of their patients and more energy to get through the working day. The home care in the Helsinki district of Vuosaari is a good example. Less urgent work was scheduled outside peak periods, and the work was evened out in line with Lean principles.

Taxpayers benefit from Lean through improved HSC services provided at less cost. Thanks to effective and efficient HSC services, citizens return to work faster and contribute more to the coffers of the taxman.

What should our next Lean step be?

If I would be King for a day, I would enforce Lean for all HSC organizations. But, in absence of such power I have no other choice but to inspire decision makers with success stories of Lean, give my full support to the Lean practitioner network, and persistently support organizations to leash the full potential of Lean.

What could your organization achieve with Lean, and what should be your next step?

Antti Turpeinen works as a Strategy and Operations Advisor in the KPMG Global Strategy Group. He has advised organizations in manufacturing and service industries for over 10 years in Lean, Supply Chain, Operations and Strategy development. In his leisure time Antti organizes a low-threshold sporting activity program known as “Matala Kynnys” for school pupils, and he also plays football for FC Simpsons.