Categories : Lean Healthcare


Can Lean Healthcare improve the delivery of services to patients?

The term “Lean Healthcare” has become a buzz word during the last couple of years. There are many more lean web sites using this term to attract potential clients connected to the healthcare industry. It has become similar to a shark feast as consulting firms compete for the limited business opportunities in the healthcare industry.  In a 2007 report from the US Census Bureau there were 6,529 hospitals spread throughout the 50 states. What does “Lean Healthcare” mean?

Lean Healthcare

Lean Healthcare

I have worked with several in the USA and Canada. I have seen different methods for presenting lean principles to healthcare audiences. The problem with these presentations is that they tell the story using manufacturing based scenarios. Healthcare professionals often look at these manufacturing examples and say “What has building a car got to do with healthcare?” I have heard the typical response, which is “Well, hospitals have processes, just like the auto industry.” It does not fly, because if a facilitator cannot deliver training that reflects the activities of the industry that the audience is working in, it will be difficult to engage them. In his book called “The Adult Learner”, Malcolm Knowles stated, “Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives.” This is an important point when teaching adults because they want to understand how to apply their new knowledge to their work environment.

The measure of success for applying lean into a healthcare environment is , Seattle WA. They took the principles from the (TPS) and applied them to improve their processes. The results have been astounding and they have become one of the model healthcare establishments that many organizations use as the standard for applying lean principles into healthcare.  There are several other examples of hospitals that have successfully implemented lean principles to improve their patient services and reduced costs.

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