Red Team Approach in Healthcare

Lara Newman
4 min readDec 8, 2019


Even though PHI (Protected Health Information) breaches cannot be avoided, healthcare administrators can use the Red Team approach to help create and improve lean processes, as well as ensure patient safety and security across their facilities because it helps with incorrect and corrupt workflows. Utilizing the Red Team approach to help with PHI breaches will allow administrators to decrease breaches and expose corrupt and disruptive workflows within their facility.

The Red Team approach is a cognitive way of thinking and planning. It enables organizations to tailor their approach to thinking and planning, so it better fits each unique situation. It uses structured tools and techniques to help us ask better questions, challenge explicit and implicit assumptions, expose information we might otherwise have missed, and develop alternatives we might not have realized exist (Yurtoglu, 2018). This approach is commonly used in the military. The military has such strong leadership. Why would the healthcare administrators of the world not look at their leadership approaches to help improve their organizations?

First, healthcare administrators use the Red Team approach to help create and improve lean processes, as well as ensure patient safety across their facilities. It helps organizations with incorrect and corrupt workflows that can cause patient safety issues. Red Team is a good approach to choose because it can help a strong organization challenge themselves to improve effectiveness. An organization can find a workflow that doesn’t seem very lean. For example, transferring patients from the emergency department to inpatient.

A lean process can help eliminate any potential patient safety errors that could potentially occur. Leadership can utilize the Red Team approach and methodology by standardizing some processes within their organization to help make them leaner and more efficient. They will utilize critical thinking and provide structured tools to help improve these processes in a short amount of time. Standardization processes mean reducing unnecessary variation in a process. In an office practice, reducing variation in exam room layouts, equipment, and supplies means that providers and staff don’t waste time looking for needed items either before or during a patient visit (“Standardized Rooms”, 2019).

Identifying a lean process can help resolve what may seem like minor issues but are in fact big patient safety concerns. Leaders of the organization can use the ACT tool found in the Red Team approach. This is a question-asking tool that allows leadership to identify underlying problems by exploring the cause-and-effect relationship within the lean six sigma process. By implementing this tool, the leadership within hospital organizations can help improve the process while decreasing patient safety concerns.

Leadership will also have to ensure they implement the concept of a lean organization to their teams. There will be some changes required from employees in order to make a lean organization function correctly. Without employee buy-in, a lean process implemented by leadership could fail. The most important piece of implementing a lean process in healthcare is to remember that the patient must be the center! Lean principles hold the promise of reducing or eliminating wasted time, money, and energy in health care, creating a system that is efficient, effective, and truly responsive to the needs of patients — the “customers” at the heart of it all (Miller, 2015).

Additionally, the Red Team approach can help organizations decrease patient security concerns and PHI breaches. We all hear stories about big healthcare facilities systems being hacked. Hackers will take patient information and hold it for ransom. Some organizations may also experience PHI breaches if interface vendors are not careful when setting up their inbound and outbound scripts. Healthcare organizations can utilize Red Team penetration testing to ensure the security setup around their system is up to par with data security. This testing would need to be conducted by highly trained cybersecurity professionals. These professionals can identify weak spots where hackers could potentially sneak their way into the system. Organizations can also utilize their antivirus detection solutions that should already be put in place.

The healthcare industry will have to make some changes across their organizations to utilize the Red Team approach. Although change is required, so long as healthcare administrators/leaders can correctly implement change across their organizations, the Red Team approach can be extremely useful to healthcare leaders. While PHI breaches cannot be completely avoided, healthcare administrators can use the Red Team approach to help create and improve lean processes, decrease the chance of PHI breaches, and ensure patient safety and security across facilities.


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