Doing More With Less

Lean Transformation Collaborative

High-quality health care means a better experience for you, the patient.

OAHHS is leading a lean collaborative focused particularly on small and rural hospitals. But what exactly does “lean” mean? Simply put, lean means using less to do more.

Lean management principles have been used effectively in manufacturing companies for decades, particularly in Japan. Because of this, lean is not typically associated with health care, where waste — of time, money, supplies, and good will — can be perceived as common. But the principles of lean management do, in fact, work in health care in much the same way they do in other industries, to streamline processes, reduce cost, and improve quality and timely delivery of products and services. In essence, lean principles can be — indeed, already are being — successfully applied to the delivery of health care.

Although health care differs in many ways from manufacturing, there are also surprising similarities: Whether building a car or providing care for a patient, workers must rely on multiple, complex processes to accomplish their tasks and provide value to the customer or patient. Waste — of money, time, supplies, or good will — decreases value.

In order for lean principles to take root, leaders must first work to create an organizational culture that is receptive to lean thinking. The commitment to lean must start at the very top of the organization, and all staff should be involved in helping to redesign processes to improve flow and reduce waste.

There are many documented cases of hospitals using lean to improve core clinical and patient safety indicators, including:

  •  Reduced “door to balloon” time for emergency room patients, by using lean methods to reduce delays and improve flow
  • Reduced central line bloodstream infections (CLABSI) through the use and consistent management of standardized work along with “5S” principles (making standard kits of items available when and where needed)
  •  Reductions in ventilator-associated pneumonia through the use of visual management (making sure beds are kept at the correct angles)
  •  Improvements in hand hygiene compliance, with a resulting drop in infections
  •  Reductions in medication errors, through formal lean mistake-proofing methodologies

Click here to see how Oregon hospitals are improving quality with Lean.

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