The Advantages of Lean Healthcare

Healthcare 13 minute read

18 May 2022 13 minute read

Duncan Ritchie Media Team


May, 2022

And the healthcare sector is no different. For a few years now, the concept of Lean Healthcare has grown to be extremely important for professionals working in this field.


But what does this method consist of and how can it be applied to the healthcare sector? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most important aspects of a model which seeks to enhance patient satisfaction whilst minimising the amount of resources needed.


So, let’s take a look…




1. An Introduction to Lean Methodology


2. What Is Lean Healthcare?

          2.1. Patient Satisfaction Is Key

          2.2. More Staff Involvement


3. The Seven Wastes of Lean Healthcare

          3.1. Waiting Time

          3.2. Transport

          3.3. Overproduction

          3.4. Overprocessing

          3.5. Movement

          3.6. Inventory

          3.7. Defects


4. Codimg as a Complement to Lean Healthcare



An Introduction to the Lean Methodology

Before getting into Lean Healthcare, let's start with the basics. What is the Lean methodology?


It’s a term coined by John Krafcik in the mid-eighties before being expanded on by James P. Womack and Daniel Jones in their 1990 book The Machine that Changed the World, in which they defined the secrets of the success of the Toyota manufacturing method.


Basically, the Lean methodology is based on achieving greater customer satisfaction by using the least amount of resources possible. One of the most important aspects is discarding anything that doesn’t add value to the product. Over the years, this method has gained popularity and has expanded into various areas outside of health, such as education and, of course, healthcare.


lean healthcare


What Is Lean Healthcare?

Which brings us nicely to the main thrust of this article…how to apply a method designed for automobile production to the health sector.


And the key points are similar. Patient satisfaction and improving the quality care are the main goals, while eliminating any process that is not efficient is the method of achieving these goals.


The Lean methodology began to be applied in the health sector in the United States in 2001 and, since then, has spread to public and private hospitals and medical centres all over the world, especially during the last decade.


Ok, now that we know what Lean healthcare is, let’s take a closer look at the methodology.



Patient Satisfaction Is Key

Patient satisfaction may seem obvious but, in a sector which involves so many different departments and areas, this is not always easy to achieve.


The Lean methodology always puts the focus on the patient, and the main concern is to provide quality service so that the processes the patient goes through is as satisfactory as possible.


For this to be possible, every aspect of the patient experience is taken into account, from their arrival at the hospital to the end of their treatment.


Some of the streamlining that needs to take place include:


  • A reduction in waiting times for appointments or treatments
  • A reduction in hospital stays
  • Fewer patients per doctor, which reduces the number of consultations and patient visits
  • A lower number of inconclusive diagnostic test results


So, how does the Lean methodology help achieve these goals? Mainly by identifying and, subsequently, eliminating those processes that aren’t effective as they should be.


  • The tasks of everyone involved in patient care, from admission to discharge, are simplified.
  • Processes are digitised to reduce bureaucracy.
  • Procedures are sped up due to a conclusive diagnosis being available.
  • Coordination between different departments is optimised so that there is a smooth flow of information for integrated teams.
  • Resources are improved. Rooms and material are redesigned, so staff can spend more time with the patient without having to source extra materials or take care of other tasks, making patients more comfortable in the process.



More Staff Involvement

Ok, so patient satisfaction is at the heart of the Lean methodology, but they are not the only ones who benefit. Staff teams also prosper with the implementation of this method.


lean healthcare staff involvement


Lean healthcare acknowledges that employee satisfaction is essential and is something which will have a direct impact on patient satisfaction. For this reason, Lean is committed to greater specialisation in staff teams, with the aim of adding value to the patient.


In addition, special emphasis is placed on inter team communication for all hospital departments, from medical to technical to administration and management.


This seeks to maximise the following:


  • Collaborative work between the different departments.
  • Motivation and involvement as all the teams are integrated and on the same page.
  • A better work environment for all.
  • More organisation between departments, reducing the duplication of tasks, the workload, and the consequent stress on the healthcare professional.
  • The autonomy of medical teams, both in decision-making and in suggestions for improving the operation of the medical center so they feel part of the improvement processes.



The Seven Wastes of Lean Healthcare

As we have already said, one of the maxims of Lean is to dispense of any process which is inefficient or does not provide maximum value. Let’s look at this in a little more detail.


In the origins of Lean, as explained by Womack and Jones when describing the philosophy of Toyota, seven “wastes” are mentioned which must be optimised or eliminated. When applied to healthcare, these wastes are:




Waiting Time

When it comes to healthcare, any reduction in waiting time will be well received, especially if the quality of service is not affected.


In the field of health, this is also a key factor as, on many occasions, the early diagnosis or rapid treatment of an illness makes recovery more probable.




The less a patient has to move during a hospotal stay, the better the experience will be. This also applies to material, equipment and medical staff. Ensuring that everything is in the correct place and accessible to the relevant teams will ensure that time will be maximised.




Duplicate diagnostic tests or procedures which take a long time to complete are good examples of overproduction in the healthcare sector. One of the objectives of Lean is to put an end to these processes which get in the way of good patient care.


lean healthcare seven wastes



Related to the previous entry, completing multiple files with duplicate patient data or carrying out tests that don’t add value to the treatment are considered aspects of overprocessing which should be eliminated.




Related to the previous point of transport, the objective here is to avoid unnecessary movement that could cause accidents or the worsening of symptoms in the patient.


For example, a room which is not optimised for the work of the medical professional probably means that materials need to be transported, increasing the risk of accidents and waiting times.




The objective here is to optimise the material available. Hoarding drugs which are rarely used, storing data from inconclusive diagnostic tests, or accumulating large stocks of material are all aspects which Lean tries to reduce or eliminate.




This point is obvious as the fewer defects in the healthcare process, the better the final result. With the Lean methodology, special importance is given to avoiding defects which may occur during any process.


Problems with IT systems would be an example of a defect in the admission or treatment of a patient, as well as misinformation between different departments leading to inefficient treatment plans.



Codimg as a Complement to Lean Healthcare

So, what role can Codimg play in the Lean process? Well, objective analysis with our software will help you to identify healthcare processes which don’t add value and can be eliminated. It can also allow you to verify and monitor that new processes are being applied correctly and that the hospital is being managed efficiently.


We know that implementing this methodology is a process which requires time and investment, but there are ways to enhance the process, and Codimg is the perfect ally when applying Lean to the healthcare sector.




Objectively analyse the processes which are not working correctly, obtain the relevant data to support your conclusions, and present the results to fellow professionals, making everyone feel involved.


If you need more information on how you can implement the Lean methodology at your medical centre, or how video analysis can aid your work, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us, we’ll be happy to talk through your needs and offer you a free trial of the software.


Until then, thanks for reading.




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