Lean Healthcare

Lean thinking may have been born in Toyota in the 1950s and 1960s, but it wasn’t until after the year 2000 that a few hospitals began to explore its application to the healthcare industry (lean healthcare). These pioneering organizations came together to share their stories at the first Global Lean Healthcare Summit in the UK in 2007, which in turn triggered many more experiments around the world. Since then, interest has kept growing.

Some fifteen years on, we have hundreds of examples to learn from, from clinics and departments through to entire hospitals and even whole hospital systems. Not all early experiments succeeded, and we are still a long way from making lean a widely recognized way of working across the industry.
Healthcare providers around the world still face huge challenges, as ageing populations and unhealthy lifestyles boost the demand for healthcare faster than the growth of incomes and tax revenues from the middle classes. At the same time, the quality of care has not improved as much as the quality of other services in the economy, which is why more and more healthcare organizations are turning to lean.

Historically, lean healthcare ideas have been applied in large hospitals, but in the past few years we have started to see the philosophy adopted in earnest in many smaller organizations following a do-it-yourself approach that has generated many positive benefits. An impressive example is the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf near Barcelona.

Lean helps save lives in South Africa

FEATURE – Only when we go where the action is, do we begin to truly understand the work. Rose Heathcote joins the Emergency Medical Services in Cape Town for a day.

Taking the lean leap in private healthcare

INTERVIEW – A private healthcare group in South Africa has carefully studied the unique challenges it faces and customized its approach to improvement accordingly, embarking on a lean journey to better patient care.

Daily management in the ICU

CASE STUDY – Effectively deploying and executing your strategy requires mastering quick follow-ups at different levels of the organization – in other words, Daily Management.

Through hardship to the stars

CASE STUDY – Catalonia's largest hospital is undergoing a successful transformation - supported by pioneering hoshin experiments - that has already turned it into a poster child for lean healthcare in the region.

What sustainability looks like

OPINION – The team at Instituto Lean Management in Barcelona comments on recent news from the Catalan healthcare sector and reflects on lean sustainability.

Reflecting on our lean healthcare journey

CASE STUDY – The CEO of a hospital in Johannesburg looks back to the last five years to reflect on a lean healthcare transformation that is creating positive outcomes for patients.

Kata in the NHS

CASE STUDY – Starting with a series of pilot sites, the NHS is hoping to engage the Kata coaching approach to really spread an improvement culture to staff and patients. 

Our new, leaner Cancer Center

FEATURE – The renovation of one of its departments gave a hospital in Italy the perfect opportunity to redesign his oncology care with lean healthcare principles in mind.

Learning A3 thinking to become a better doctor

FEATURE – A student in a medical school recently completed a rotation based on A3 thinking. She tells us what learning to use this problem-solving method has brought her.

Teaching A3 skills to medical students

FEATURE – Problem solving is a fundamental part of being a leader, which is what led this medical school in the United States to include A3 thinking in its curriculum. 

The hands of many

FEATURE – A dedicated pathway and the introduction of lean healthcare principles is bringing people together to provide better care to older, frail people in an Irish hospital group.

When a hospital meets an airline

FEATURE – In a bid to find inspiration and new ideas to achieve excellent outcomes in patient safety, a group from a Boston hospital flew to Orlando to visit JetBlue Airways. 

Implanting lean ideas in our practice

FEATURE – Lean thinking has helped this dental practice in Italy to streamline the work, develop the capabilities of workers and free up a lot of the head dentist’s time.

Taking lean improvement to heart

INTERVIEW – This cardiac laboratory in Singapore was targeting one improvement and ended up with something different, but equally impactful for its patient flow.

How to transform a large hospital system

FEATURE – Hospitals are often part of larger healthcare systems, which makes it critical to learn how to bring lean to such diverse and complex environments. We hear from a large hospital group in Ireland.

The lean veterinarian

INTERVIEW – A 22-people veterinarian hospital in Barcelona has recently turned to lean thinking. We caught up with the owner to learn how things have changed six months into the journey. 

The power of our origin story

PROFILE – Earlier this month, our editor visited the US and sat down with the CEO of a community health center near Boston. His humility and honesty about his lean leadership are striking.

Retaining talent to make a difference

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – This French company provides support to the severely disabled, and is currently using lean thinking to limit employee turnover and recruit faster.