I just listened to a great LeanBlog podcast episode on Dr. Sami Bahri, The World’s First Lean Dentist. Really amazing; this guy was unhappy with how his dental practice was going (e.g. very bad on-time performance, very long wait times), did some reading, and thought this lean stuff would help. Despite the fact, of course, that the vast majority of the lean literature is about manufacturing, which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with dentistry.

And he seems to have done a brilliant job of adapting lean concepts to his situation. He (and his employees) recast the concept of single piece flow as single patient flow, with a remarkably small amount of waste of the patients’ time. They’re shown into a chair within seconds of arriving, treatment begins almost immediately, the practice somehow manages to keep enough flexibility that they can do all the treatment necessary for a given patient in one shot instead of having to schedule further followup appointments for problems that are, say, identified during treatment.

It sounds like he’s got “respect for the individual” down pat, too: all the staff is involved in experimenting and improving, they do tons of crosstraining so people don’t get pigeonholed, and staff turnover is extremely low. And, of course, he hasn’t laid anybody off as a result of the increased efficiency: my favorite example was one of his employees who managed to transform verifying patients’ insurance from a full-time job into a job that takes three and a half hours a month. She was bored for a little while while they were figuring out how to best deploy her skills, after she’d basically transformed her own job out of existence through improved efficiency, but now she’s happily working in other areas of the practice.

Really fascinating.

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