Nurse wearing rubber gloves, surgical mask and protective glasses

Healthcare is a famously motion-intense industry, with entire spin-off industries of comfortable shoes springing up to service the nurses, doctors, and support staff who are always on the move. Your clinic may not be as big as a hospital, but the same rules of motion apply.

Like all process improvement, communication is key. Ask your people their ideas and genuinely listen when they offer them. Their idea could save you money and, even if it doesn’t, the fact that they’re taking the effort to tell you is a sign that you’re on the right track.


Where’s your Equipment:

Motion waste is infuriating because it’s so preventable and often comes down to sloppily misplaced items. While the most commonly used items, like tongue depressors, are typically kept in every room, less common items are stored centrally.

Make sure your storage is centralized and organized. For example, if the only pencil available is misplaced or left in an examination room, it could take staff a lot of wandering time to find it. On top of motion waste, this also compounds waiting waste for the other involved staff and the patient, and potentially for subsequent patients.


Everything in its Place:

5S is the pillar of Lean best designed to tackle motion waste. It’s a disciplined approach to making sure there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. It also stresses cleanliness and ongoing equipment maintenance, which is universally helpful, even in clinics wherein there are strict best practices.


Procedure Prep:

A little motion waste in a process is multiplied by the number of times per day, per week, and per year, repetitively. When you start your process improvement strategy, the most common processes are the lowest hanging fruit to look at for waste.

Clinics perform multiple minor surgeries a day, and each of them requires equipment assembly. This typically can take around 10 minutes, which can then trickle down into waiting waste for patients and other staff.

If your clinic reliably performs that same surgery, consider preparing sterile packs of the most basic items ahead of time. This can save time for the procedure and help eliminate staff congestion at the main storage room.


surgery tools, stethoscope

Spaghetti Charts:

Clinic staff are always moving. Doctors are hustling between rooms, front end staff are to and from printers, and nurses are pretty much everywhere.

With all the movement happening, motion waste should be low-hanging-fruit if you know where to find it. A Spaghetti chart is a Lean tool that helps pinpoint motion waste. It works like this:

  • Handout out floor maps of the clinic to every staff member, along with a pen and have them write their names on them.
  • Ask them to scribble down everywhere they walk throughout the day, with a line connecting the “here” and “there.”
  • Afterward, take some time to sit down with each staff member and chat openly about their travels throughout the day.
  • Look for routes that are repeated often and are longer than they should be. Are desk staff having to walk 100 feet repeatedly to the only printer? Is the only store room on the far side of the clinic?

From the Spaghetti chart, and from honest dialogue with your staff, you should be able to pick some low-hanging motion fruit that will build staff confidence and morale in the process improvement journey.

Spaghetti Chart example

An example of a Spaghetti Chart that helps to reduce the waste on transportation, motion and waiting time.

Let’s Talk Spaghetti from Hahn & Houle LLP on Vimeo.