"In the factories of Toyota Motor Corp., any worker who spots a serious problem can pull a cord and stop the assembly line. Richard Shannon, chairman of medicine at Allegheny General Hospital, is applying the Toyota technique to an intensive-care-unit here."
Above is the first paragraph of a front-page story in Friday's Wall St. Journal about yet another attempt to remake American medical practice.
In Shannon's hospital, when a nurse wants something done right now, she can call him direct, and he cuts through the delays.
In an example cited in the paper, a nurse couldn't get someone to come and replace an IV line, so Shannon called the chairman of radiology at home - on a Sunday afternoon.
The guy came in and "within two hours put in the new IV line himself." Said Shannon: "That's the Toyota production system. No problem should be left unsolved."
Memo to Shannon (after I stopped laughing so hard I cried): The next problem you're gonna be facing is finding a new radiology chairman.
That guy didn't go into radiology and climb to the top of his department's hill to play intern at age 55 on a Sunday afternoon. Ha.
Besides which, he probably hasn't put in a central line himself in 20 years. Residents do that stuff. No wonder it took him two hours to do a 15-minute procedure.
Said Dr. Paul Kiproff, the radiology chairman, "It's not in my interest to be putting in lines all day long." He's being very polite.
More from the article, by Bernard Wysocki, Jr.:
- Hospitals aren't factories, though. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staffers don't think of themselves as assembly-line workers or their patients as anything resembling a Camry under construction.
To ease the potential culture clash, many hospitals play down the Toyota name. But the conflict between the culture of efficiency and the culture of caring is never far from the surface.