LEANing in on Healthcare

There is a “petition” that is building momentum in the Healthcare industry – “We need to become Lean…”  Although the need has been there for some time, the direction (the how-to) has been nebulous and ill-defined.  “We are unique,”~the healthcare practitioners. With the change in the healthcare structure, and the rules set forth by administration most believe it is virtually impossible for hospitals to become lean. Yet they are highly aware that something needs to change in order to provide the highest of quality to patients.

However, while it is true that there are many unique facets to ANY business, in ANY industry, it is also true that the principles and practices of Lean are applicable to any environment where the management and staff are willing to look at their business through “new eyes.”

The foundation of Lean is the elimination of waste through continuous improvement initiatives.  Anyone who works in the Healthcare industry, or even those of us who have been on the receiving end of healthcare, knows that there is countless waste in the industry: from long waits to astronomical costs, from lack of standardization, inordinate quantities of inventory, massive amounts of paperwork, errors and the one we all love to hate REWORK.

The very recognition of these inadequacies in the existing system(s) means that Healthcare practitioners have already begun the first step of Lean – seeing things more clearly, and realizing that you CAN improve.  Lean simply provides the tools that allow you to attack the individual problems through a structured and systematic approach.

One of the major differences in the healthcare industry, versus say, manufacturing, is the potential consequences.  In manufacturing, if we make mistakes, the cost translates into lost time and money.  In Healthcare, however, mistakes can translate into “life or death”.

Therefore, and most assuredly, because of this fact, it is all the more important for the industry to “Face their fears” and start looking at the systems/processes that allow errors to occur.

  Along with being bested by the U.K., America’s health care system ranked worse than those of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden. In comparison, our doctors and hospitals are terrible at providing low-cost, efficient, and equitable care, and we have much higher infant mortality and low life expectancy. (takepart.com/article June 2014)

Here’s a table that describers where the United States ranks in elements of healthcare compared to other “leading countries”

Healthcare Cost Ranking for leading countries.
Healthcare Cost Ranking for leading countries.

Cost is high and quality is low, of course we would recommend a lean approach (we’ve already done the research) but even if Hospitals decided against it, our question is… What Will They Do?


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Huntersville, NC 28078

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