If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times; patients don't like to wait. This isn't exactly new information, but the question remains: How can you improve wait times? Simply changing the name from "The Waiting Room" to "The Reception Area" is not going to help with overall patient flow efficiency.

There are, however, many areas of optimization to explore when it comes to reducing patient waiting times. In this post, we'll explore a key principle of the Lean Management concept that can help: A pull-based system.

What is the Push vs. Pull Concept?

In the teachings of lean manufacturing or management, there are two approaches to inventory:

  1. The "Push" approach, which involves creating a large amount of inventory (or capacity for services) in anticipation of future demand.

  2. The "Pull" approach, which involves delivering goods or services in response to real-time demand.

The Lean system advocates for a pull-based system that limits the amount of on-hand/excess inventory while still ensuring that organizations can quickly meet demand as it arises (or "just in time"—a concept often referenced along with the pull approach).

How Does Push vs. Pull Apply to Healthcare Environments?

Because healthcare organizations provide a service—and a wide-ranging, bespoke one at that—the push or pull approach can seem a little abstract. But the same principles can apply. If we consider that a push approach to patient traffic/flow might look like:

  • Overstaffed facilities anticipating patient demand that doesn't always materialize

  • Moving patients through the facility based on arbitrary systems or processes—or worse, a random approach to patient flow

A pull system, on the other hand, would employ a more methodical, just-in-time approach to patient flow—and might leverage technology and processes that allow organizations to:

  • See and respond to patient flow (like wait times) in real-time

  • Prioritize tasks (patient care and admin) based on the most urgent needs

  • Identify overarching patient traffic trends in order to create a more lean operating model

  • Get high-level (and drilled-down) views of patient flow metrics to strategize better processes and react more effectively to the unexpected ebb and flow of patient volumes.

Just as with a pull approach to manufacturing, pull-based healthcare systems help things flow more smoothly—with no bottlenecks, lags, or gaps.

How Can Healthcare Organizations Implement a Pull-Based System?

A pull-approach to patient flow sounds good in theory, but how can healthcare organizations make it a reality?

The Expeditor LEAN Patient Flow System and software was created to help healthcare facilities achieve a more pull-based approach to their operation—reacting in real time to patient demands and using analytics to drive strategic optimization initiatives.

With 40 years of experience improving patient flow and 8,000 satisfied clients, we know our solution can work for you, too. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.