In Manufacturing, overproduction is a potentially paralyzing waste that happens when too many widgets roll off the line. In a clinic, care is the product. But too much of it, or wrong administration, can yield massive resources waste.
Tests, Tests, and more Tests:
When a doctor decides to order a patient test, it’s because he or she feels that a piece of the overall puzzle is missing. This is usually a gut feeling.
Overproduction happens when more resources are spent on tests than what the patient needs. Here’s what that looks like:
- Ordering tests that offer no valuable insight into the patient’s condition and are thus unnecessary
- High cost tests when less expensive tests would yield the same answers for that patient
- Extra diagnostic testing in order to insulate against potential claims of malpractice, often in relation to a difficult patient
Doctors write dozens of prescriptions a day for a wide array of drugs. The balancing act here is to provide the amount required for appropriate care, but no more.
Chronic overuse of antibiotics over decades has resulted in deeply-rooted health issues, like emergent superbugs. Sometimes it’s habit to prescribe antibiotics for illnesses that will pass on their own.
It can be difficult, especially when a patient books an appointment looking for the pills, to leave it at bedrest. Often in healthcare overproduction, the patient is the driving force, asking for more than he or she needs, which puts the doctor in the unenviable position of having to take time to educate when other patients are waiting.
Other questions to consider when prescribing:
- Does the patient need the brand name, or will the generic have the same effect? If the patients asks for the brand name, what should the doctor’s role (if any) be in education?
- A lot of patients don’t respond favourably to the first drug tried. What dosage are you prescribing at the beginning, and is it going to waste?
Wastes overlap in every industry. In a clinic, over-processed tasks, whether at the front desk or with patients, could result in your clinic being unnecessarily over-staffed.
Every industry grapples with staffing levels. If yours are bugging you, focus on the internal processes your team performs many times a day. If your peak staffing levels are at slow patient times, there’s a lot of non-patient involved over-processing happening.
Defensive medicine is on the rise, and overproduction waste is rising with it. More patients are marching in with “WebMD” diagnoses in-hand, looking to inform rather than dialoguing with doctors. Often they demand certain medications, tests, or procedures that they think they need, and it falls to the doctor to try reasoning with them, while attempting to assess their condition objectively.
It’s called “defensive” because patients, sometimes with threats (implied or otherwise) of publicity or legal action, are on the offensive. It can sap doctor morale, waste resources, and decrease overall patient value across the system. It’s also a fairly new cause of overproduction, with a largely unclear trajectory.