Lean processes – the Irish Covid-19 vaccination system

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Lean if a termed usually used to describe process efficiency. There are various terms used in the field of “lean” such as lean thinking, lean manufacturing/production, lean management etc, but to me the easiest way to think of “lean” concepts is to think of the normal meaning of lean – fit, strong and without fat. In organisational terms we can think of lean as being about not only doing things in a lean way, but always looking for ways to improve (or kanban).

In my time as a management accountant I have been lucky enough to be involved in projects with a lean emphasis, mainly around lean production and the notion of a pull system – where orders are pulled through the production process to meet customer delivery dates.

It has been a while since my lean experience days, and yesterday I was vividly reminded of them through a LinkedIn connection. John O’Shanahan from LeanBPI wrote a wonderful blog post of his experience being vaccinated against Covid19 in one of Ireland’s large vaccine centres. You can read the post at the link in full, but some points made by John are classic examples of lean in action. One point was how those attending had their appointment time confirmed before being allowed to enter. If someone were permitted to enter earlier or late, this could upset the process which is designed to ensure full flow through the vaccination centre. A second point relates to a Covid history check. John noted:

At the Covid-19 history check, the checker was ready to record if there was an issue but was not recording the results for all persons checked. Most patients presenting for vaccine will pass the Covid-19 history check, it makes sense to only record the exceptions and turn these patients away before entering.  

Finally, the use of technology to capture information is noted. Tablets used were prepopulated with certain information from the vaccine registration portal, and little new data was captured. However, what was captured simply adds to the exist data and does not create a new process or data. I have seen other comments noting that the only paper in the process was the small card given to each person at the end (like a Vaccine ID) and information leaflets distributed. This contrasts with eight pages of forms in German vaccine centres, for example.

Do read the full post by John if you have time.


About martinjquinn

I am an accounting academic, accountant and author based near Dublin, Ireland.

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