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.

Nurses transforming surgery

How the initiative of nurses transformed a whole department

FEATURE – We can't go wrong when we trust our people to take the initiative that we will improve their work... that's how Siena University Hospital cut its procurement lead-time in Surgery by two-thirds.

Being a learner-in-chief: a lean healthcare leader profiled

PROFILE – Another month, another inspiring profile of a lean practitioner. We were impressed by Dr Billi’s deep conviction in the idea that, first of all, leaders must be learners. You will be too.
lean project intensive care siena hospital

Dedicated patient paths to slash discharge delays

FEATURE – Having dedicated clinical paths for specific types of patients is a well-known method for reducing waiting times. By doing it, Siena University Hospital managed to slash delays by 80%.
lean healthcare hospitals networking

The power of networks – the story of four hospitals

FEATURE – This article shares the lean journeys of four North American hospitals, and their learning's, reminding us that being part of a network of likeminded practitioners is critical to our success.
Siena hospital neonatal care

Changing the layout of a nursery to improve neonatal care

FEATURE – Another month, another story of a lean project told by the Siena hospital front-line folks. This time we take you to the Intensive Care Nursery, whose layout was transformed to provide better care to premature newborns.

Adopting lean principles to speed up blood donation

FEATURE – In the second article of our series written by the front-line staff of Siena University Hospital, we learn how the lean principles of pull and flow have transformed the blood donating process.
internal medicine siena hospital

Nurses and doctors tell us how they are changing their ward

FEATURE – Every year, Siena University Hospital runs a Lean Day to celebrate and award its best lean projects. In this new series, front-line people write about five of these initiatives: first up, Internal Medicine.
Hôpital Lariboisière lean in healthcare

The first steps of a Paris hospital towards lean healthcare

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – On this gemba walk in the cardiology department of a Parisian hospital, the author discovers how the team is changing its internal dynamics and processes to make lean their way of thinking.
Lean at an organ donation NGO

Bringing lean thinking to organ donation in Michigan

FEATURE – A Michigan NGO that facilitates organ and tissue donation shares its experience with value stream mapping, reflecting on people coming together to understand the gap between current and future state.
palo alto hospitals sustaining results

A California lean hospital on how to sustain results

FEATURE – The Palo Alto Medical Foundation has used lean to redesign workflows in its primary care clinics since late 2011. With changes now spread to a total of 17 facilities, the team started to analyze what it took to sustain the results achieved.
lean Siena hospital

The fantastic lean transformation of an Italian hospital

CASE STUDY – There is more to Siena than the Palio: the Tuscan city boasts of one of the most advanced examples of lean healthcare in Italy. We asked the team at the University Hospital how they are doing it.
lean logistics holland

Revolutionizing warehousing in a hospital with lean thinking

FEATURE – The warehousing department of a Dutch hospital has been implementing lean for a few years. Its Head of Logistics believes in an approach to change based on respect for people and on making small but steady steps.

Lean is helping a Brazilian hospital fight dengue fever

FEATURE – By using lean management, the Hospital São Francisco (HSF) near São Paulo, Brazil, has improved its ability to deal with dengue epidemics – treating patients more quickly and efficiently.
hospital district helsinki lean healthcare

Lean healthcare at a large hospital district in Finland

CASE STUDY – The whole of Helsinki’s hospital district is leaning out, with incredible results. It isn’t every day that we come across – let alone have the opportunity to observe – a lean transformation in such a large healthcare organization.
Rosa Simon profile healthcare

Meet a champion of Catalonia’s lean healthcare movement

PROFILE – Lean is spreading like wildfire across the Catalonian healthcare sector, following a do-it-yourself model unique to this part of the world. Our editor met one of the practitioners who are making it happen.

Bringing lean principles to Australian cities and healthcare

PROFILE – This month we meet another member of the lean community, a true pioneer of lean thinking, who contributed to introducing the methodology in Australian cities and healthcare organizations.
lean healthcare UZA Antwerp

The lean journey of Antwerp University Hospital

CASE STUDY – How an improvement program of the British national healthcare system inspired a Belgian hospital to launch an organization-wide lean transformation with the active support of the HR and nursing departments.
Alice Lee profile

Alice Lee’s story – why lean learning and teaching coexist

PROFILE – While pioneering the application of lean thinking in healthcare, Alice Lee realized that you should always approach teaching as you do problem solving: scientifically, situationally, and with the humility of a learner.