How Do You Get Lean

Posted by

Paul Levy

First published 6/6/11 on Not Running a Hospital

Lean is not a program. It is a philosophy of management and of organization in a firm or institution. The LEAN approach to things is based on the concept of reducing waste in a process. In a typical clinical process in a typical hospital, over 90% of the steps taken to deliver care are wasteful, and it is not unusual to be able to reduce that by half. The results are better patient care and better financial results. (Regular readers have seen lots of examples of this from my former hospital.)

A leading figure in the spread of Lean to hospitals is John Toussaint. He was CEO of ThedaCare, in Wisconsin. After leaving that position, he founded the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value to spread the word about this approach. The Center has released its first DVD, a 44-minute video that highlights strategy deployment as a core part of the Lean management system at ThedaCare. Here’s a summary:

The video takes you to multiple locations at ThedaCare and Appleton Medical Center, including the senior leadership “visual room” and two inpatient units. Toussaint, current CEO Dean Gruner MD, and COO Matt Furlan describe how strategy deployment helps align the entire organization and their improvement efforts around their “true north” objectives for measurably better care. You will also see front-line managers describe how they drive daily continuous improvement in alignment with ThedaCare’s mission, vision, and strategy.

Several hospitals around the country have joined to create a Healthcare Value Leaders Network as they implement the Lean philosophy. Established in June 2009, the network now consists of 36 member organizations that have joined to collaborate and share their lean methods and experiences. The goal of the Network is to accelerate each organization’s “Lean journey,” allowing each member to progress more quickly and more effectively than they could on their own.

If I were on the board of trustees of a hospital facing a whole variety of financial and clinical issues, I would be asking the senior administrative and clinical leadership how they intend to reap the patient care and financial advantages that come from the Lean approach. If you are in that role, see what answer you get when you ask the question.

Paul Levy describes himself as “an advocate for patient-driven care, eliminating preventable harm, transparency of clinical outcomes, and front-line driven process improvement.” He writes at Not Running a Hospital.

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