Going LEAN in physician recruitment
By Jennifer Feddersen, PHR, MSM, DASPR, Manager of Physician and Advance Practice Practitioner Recruitment, Medical Staff Affairs, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI
Some may ask, “How is it possible for four recruiters to handle 95 searches each per year?” My answer: “LEAN Management.”
A few years ago, our team at Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) attended a two-day boot camp titled “Henry Ford Production System Training Sessions.” It was an extensive educational program that offered a hands-on approach to the concept known as LEAN management, based upon W. Edwards Deming’s management principles for process improvement. Deming taught extensively with this process in Japan, where the early concept of LEAN was formed in manufacturing as the Toyota Production System (TPS).
In simple terms, LEAN is described as having the ability to see waste and the courage to eliminate it. Several departments in our organization have adopted these principles in a way that uniquely and easily translates into other aspects of work — including that of physician recruitment.
In 2012, our four physician and provider recruiters handled a total of 382 searches, filling/closing 80 percent by year-end. This was up slightly from 2011 with 72 percent of 354 searches filled/closed. Now that we’ve adopted LEAN practices, which have proven to increase production, I can’t imagine not using LEAN in our day-to-day activities.
Making LEAN work
Step 1: Self-assessment
Using the basic tools of LEAN management, such as the “plan-do-check-act cycle”, our team met weekly to explore “bottlenecks” in the recruitment process. First, we focused on easier action items and assigned tasks to team members. We then developed an action plan and implemented the plan accordingly. After each step, benchmarking was utilized to measure our improvements. During this process we tackled issues such as: What every applicant needs to know prior to start date; turnaround time of application submissions; onboarding: who handles what?
Step 2: Benchmarking
Studying turn-around time of application submissions, we examined our baseline on an Excel spreadsheet. Through this, general inconsistencies were noted in areas such as the date the application was sent, the date it was returned, and missing items. Then, we identified common errors, missing documents or differences in approach between recruiters.
Step 3: Planning
Next, we standardized the application process by including the specific time frame for returning applications in the introduction letters.
Step 4: Reassessing and adapting
Last, we reviewed the results, benchmarked the results one last time, searched for areas for improvement, and communicated the results and recommendations with the team. With a consistent message and detailed directions up front, we reduced the number of incomplete applications dramatically.
We have now expanded our LEAN process into other areas of recruitment including benefit overviews, provider onboarding, and new hire processes. The keys to success are to meet regularly, be open about frustrations and bottlenecks, and focus on the end result.
To learn more about LEAN Management, check out Lean Healthcare Exchange http://leanhealthcareexchange.com/ or read Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction by Mark Graban, Productivity Press.