Customer Experience and Design

Analyzing the healthcare industry tipping point using Therbligs

Do you remember therbligs from your Operations Management class?

The word therblig was the creation of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, American industrial psychologists who invented the field of time and motion study. It is a reversal of the name Gilbreth, with ‘th’ transposed. Therbligs are 18 kinds of elemental motions used in the study of motion economy in the workplace. A workplace task is analyzed by recording each of the therblig units for a process, with the results used for optimization of manual labor by eliminating unneeded movements. (Wikipedia)

shutterstock_128890124I remember, and it was a lifetime ago. But then again, the Gilbreth’s were turn-of-the-century industrial psychologists who invented the field of time and motion study. I consider them the founding parents of Industrial Engineering.

So why are we talking about therbligs in Healthcare?

Ah, young Jedi, the time has come to learn our lessons much the same way that the industrial giants like Ford, Carnegie Steel and General Electric learned 100 years ago during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. These early lessons became the standards of the mid-century boom in manufacturing and production output.

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So the healthcare technology space has finally gotten to its tipping point. In order to survive, the healthcare industry will need to invest in Industrial Engineering principles and it will need to do product line, service line, episodic, acute and outpatient time and motion studies.

Those of us in healthcare will need to work toward getting accurate reporting on the most discrete work activity, person performing the function and the time duration. From there, the folks with the green eye shades get to take over and “cost” the task, activity, and visit. Quality Improvement gets to join in and look at idiosyncrasies in practice.

Very soon healthcare providers will know how much your wellness visit or the orthopedic hip replacement truly costs from a micro costing approach. Gone are the RCC or RVU estimates that just collapse and average.

And yes, as Frank and Lillian Gilbreth know – it is cheaper by the dozen!


Join us at HIMSS. Our booth number is #2035, just behind the IBM booth. Enter to win one of three FitBit Flexes we are giving away to those who enter at (need not be in attendance at HIMSS to win).
The Perficient Oracle team will be available at our Perficient HIMSS booth # 2035 and at Oracle booth # 2165 to showcase our healthcare solutions. Come by for hands demonstrations of Perficient’s healthcare analytic solutions, or sign up at to get in touch with one of our Oracle healthcare experts about your needs.


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