Lean Hospitals

Case Study:  Reduce the Risk of Spreading Infectious Diseases

This Case Study was conducted in March of 2005. We’ve recently carefully reviewed several health and hospital articles and it appears that infections related to hospital accidents are still at an alarming rate.


Company Profile

  • Southeastern Michigan hospital ranked in the  top 100 improved hospitals in the nation
  • Committed to continuous improvement, and reaching the most efficient, highest quality patient care available

Business Situation 

At the time hospitals were constantly in a struggle with the battle to reduce the possibility of spreading infectious disease.  The American culture had gone into a prevention frenzy to control the outbreak of infectious diseases.  We adopted the following tools and processes to help reduce the likelihood of contracting an infectious disease.  Some of the tools that were used are:

  • Mandated immunization for school -aged children;
  • washing hands often and before returning to work;
  • cooking food thoroughly;
  • Use of antibiotics.
  • Infectious control practitioners to oversee infection control programs

Even with prevention practices set in place, hospitals still had a staggering  5% infection rate, one of the most critical areas to reduce the infection rate is the hospital operating room.  While a human body is open and exposed in an operating room, the chance of infection increases greatly.

The improvement team therefore started implementing Lean Conversion techniques to four connecting operating rooms, or commonly referred to as a POD.  With the assistance of Lean Sensei Curtis Walker of GDC Total Business Solutions, tools and systems were put in place to drastically reduce exposure to infectious disease.


Lean Conversion has many tools that can be utilized across various industries.  The healthcare industry has recently realized it is time for improvement!  For years the industry has been struggling to provide customer service at an economical price.  With the current situation, hospitals are finding it necessary to compete amongst each other, which means that the institutions must improve their current practices to provide superior, cost- effective care for patients.  The industry has turned to Lean Conversion and Six- Sigma to bring continuous improvement tools and activities to their organization.

To create Workplace Organization by using the foundation of Lean tools, 5S.  This technique was applied to one pod (4 operating rooms).  The 5S standards used are:

  1.  Sort – Identify only those things that are absolutely necessary and remove everything else
  2. Set-in-Order –  Create a place for everything and everything in its place
  3. Shine – Clean and further disburse items
  4. Standardize –  Create and set the standard for cleanliness and orderliness
  5. Sustain – Establishing the discipline to sustain the first 4S’ over time

Over 20 weeks, teams of 3-5 members including a RN and a Pod Aide held training meetings (maximum of 4 hours).  These team members working with other staff members performed assignments lasting no more than 60 minutes per team member.   The Lean tools (in addition to 5 S) used were:

  • Kanban
    • This is a system used to regulate amount of supplies on-hand.  It is a visual system that has a trigger to alert when inventory has dropped below the re-order point.  The system ensured that all supplies were stocked and available during the surgical procedure.
  • Runner
    • This tool is essential for the successful implementation of the kanban system.  The Runner is the person who monitors and adjusts the system to ensure that it is up-to-date and accurate.
  • Visual Controls
  • Inventory Control
Curtis Walker reviewing the project.
Curtis Walker reviewing the project.


  • Decreased staff time spent searching for various  supplies and equipment resulting in increased time available for patient surgery
  • Less time spent by Pod Aides replenishing supplies
  • Less frustration due to the inability to find necessary supplies immediately
  • Less stress for new hires due to clear, specific organizational standards
  • More time available to spend on patient care

After the appropriate lean tools were implemented, in a two week controlled pilot study of the results, GDC Total Business Solutions found the following:

  • 77% increase in reducing the risk of  spreading infectious diseases (See Example)
Incident Improvement
Incident Improvement

866 (25%) hours of additional operating room time

  • $779,000 annual savings
  • Improved customer service
  • less complaints


GDC Total Business Solutions Curtis Walker, working with the hospital teams produced very impressive results by implementing Workplace Organization (5S) tools.  The results were sustainable, continuous and respected by the hospital management team.

Today’s Health industry continues to face problems such as these as well as others. The change in health care coverage along with the growth in new diseases, makes it critical that hospitals begin to increase preventative methods and improve their processes.

For more information on GDC Total Business Solutions please visit our website http://www.gdctbs.com/

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