What is Lean Healthcare and how does it apply to hospitals?


Lean Principles have been in practice for decades by companies such as Toyota Motor Company, Wiremold, and Danaher to eliminate waste, improve quality and become more productive in the ever-competitive marketplace. These same Lean Principles are the answer to the healthcare crisis. Although many advances have been made in healthcare treatment, the performance management process has not kept pace.


Lean Healthcare focuses the hospital on providing value to patients at less cost by eliminating wasteful activities and improving quality of care. Hospitals today are faced with increasing patient loads, increasing hospital operating cost, a shortage of qualified healthcare staff, and limited hospital facilities. While hospitals have to implement cost savings plans to remain profitable, profit margins continue to shrink. Cuts are usually made in the value-added areas such as people, equipment, beds, and services. Lean Healthcare focuses on elimination of waste and leaves the value-added intact. Lean Healthcare increases the efficiency of the process of admitting and treating patients, allowing more patients to be treated. This allows medical practices to leverage existing assets such as beds and other fixed cost, which generates higher profit margins.


One of the major benefits of implementing Lean in your Hospital is that Lean will dramatically improve quality. This will reduce patient infections. The infection rate in many Hospitals today is 69,767 parts per million. The target for quality in a Lean operation is less than 20 parts per million defect rate.


The fastest way to implement change and obtain results is to create the proper foundation in the beginning. A Steering Committee selected by hospital senior executives will set the goals and define the desired strategic outcomes that are to be achieved. The goal of Lean Healthcare is to establish processes that allow hospital employees to execute them flawlessly every day. A process is simply a set of defined and related task that are performed to achieve a defined outcome.


A hospital patient who is ill measures their satisfaction not only by the treatment received at the hospital, but by the complete experience. Long waits for treatment, testing which needs to be repeated because of error only add to existing stress which the patient is already experiencing. By understanding where waste exists and taking steps to eliminate waste will allow hospital patients to be treated more quickly with less error.


Lean Healthcare Principles apply throughout the hospital organization. If you have an interest in meeting with a Lean Healthcare Specialist to learn more, please contact us at (859) 321-9351.