In healthcare, we are definitely trying to speed things up for our patients. Billboards around our area (and maybe, around the country) promise 30 minute door-to-doc time in their Emergency Departments (EDs). One promises no waiting to be seen by a healthcare professional! Mini-offices are springing up in chain pharmacies, promising no waiting for minor problems. One health system promises a “money-back” guarantee if you have an “excessive wait time.”

But there are still some things in healthcare that you have to wait for, with good reason. When you receive a medication, sometimes you have to wait for it to take effect. If you receive a breathing treatment, it may take awhile to breathe a little easier. When you have surgery, you usually have to wait for some healing to occur before you are sent home – even if everything else is ready for the patient to be discharged and all other medical tasks have been completed.

In these cases, the waiting periods can’t be made faster – they’re processes, but not processes over which we have control. When mapping these timeframes in a lean value stream map, are they automatically wastes? Or something else?

In the automotive industry, it takes a certain amount of time for paint to dry, but you can work on faster-drying paint. When you are working on a process that has a wait time required for a patient to heal up,should you just skip over that part and work on a different part of the value stream?

I’d like to know your thoughts on that matter, and thanks in advance for helping to clarify my thinking!

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