Beyond Heroes

Updated on May 1, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 12.25.53 PMThere’s a movement underway.

A quiet revolution in healthcare that is gaining momentum.

Time Magazine said recently that if the late Peter Drucker wanted “to really understand where our health system is headed, he would fix his gaze on one place: ThedaCare.”  

The epicenter of this remarkable story is smack dab in the middle of Appleton, Wisconsin. Appleton is a medium sized town of around 250,000 souls. But, though relatively small in number, it may turn out to be just what the doctor ordered because John Toussaint’s Center for HealthCare Value and ThedaCare are leading a successful charge to make hospitals and healthcare facilities safer, more transparent, and more cost effective.

And, the changes these dedicated revolutionaries are advocating can’t come too soon for the rest of us. Here’s why:  

At least 44,000 people die in hospitals every year because of preventable medical errors. 

Fifteen thousand Medicare patients die EVERY MONTH in the U.S. following preventable medical errors inflicted on them in hospitals. That’s the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing EVERY DAY!

At least Thirty to Fifty percent of healthcare delivery is wasteful, meaning that it is of NO USE to the patient. Translation: 750 Billion dollars per year could be saved if we get rid of waste.

This crisis is the result of a disturbing trifecta: rising costs, not enough accountability and transparency, and lousy results.  We as a country spend more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation and yet we have data that shows that tens of thousands of people die every year in hospitals because of preventable medical errors. We rank 39th for infant mortality and 36th for life expectancy. 

Learning from the Best

ThedaCare has broken new ground using methods borrowed from the Toyota Production System model (The principles apply across all industries) that launched Toyota into its most profitable and productive period. The progress ThedaCare has made has been transformational, and that progress is built upon a market driven model based on a competitive, patientchoice-driven system that focuses on three key elements:

  • Transparency of treatment quality and cost
  • Paying providers for outcomes
  • Care designed around the patient instead of the provider

This is hard work, and a disciplined model for management and sustainment has been determined to be critical.  In the forthcoming book Beyond Heroes (April 2014), Kim Barnas, former SVP of ThedaCare and faculty member of the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value.  continues the ThedaCare success story, drilling down into the everyday, boots-on-the-ground methodology for implementing the much-needed changes on a day to day basis. “I did not want to write a workbook that had set steps to arrive at “the” proper destination as defined by ThedaCare,” she says candidly. “It had to be a story about our journey and how we arrived at a conclusion…filled with stories that spoke to people’s hearts and missions.” 

Beyond Heroes does just that. It is an inspirational and practical roadmap for health care leaders out there who know in their hearts there must be a better way, but have yet to find it. The stories about applying Lean principles to the everyday running of a healthcare organization and the buy-in from everyone involved, are encouraging and powerful. Creating an opportunity to reflect on the lean journey and what comes next.  Beyond Heroes should be invaluable and instructional for healthcare leaders who want to improve their organization.. 

Beyond Heroes outlines the leadership system necessary to achieve dramatic improvements in healthcare. … This book will help shape the healthcare leaders of tomorrow.—Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, quality improvement and health policy expert at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Kim and her team have two goals in mind, an end game for all their work. She explains: “First, we need to improve our care to our patients everyday… and do that as a care team removing waste and creating value.  Second, we would love to see a day where medical staff and leadership staff have exactly the same vision. In the current healthcare environment, there’s a lot of fear, and that fear builds a fence, a barrier where the patient pays the price, both financially and personally.  The perception is that hospital leadership and management is on one side, and clinical, physician needs are on the other side. In truth, we are all here for ONE reason- to serve the patient. If we can help patients move seamlessly across the system, that would be extremely rewarding for us all .”


A Lean Management System for Healthcare  

Author: Kim Barnas
Publication Date: April 2014
Publisher:  ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value
ISBN: 978-0-9848848-2-7

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