Lean Healthcare: Valuing What Patients Value

July 25, 2017

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

Jane Weber Brubaker, Editor of eHealthcare Strategy & TrendsLean business practices have been around ever since Toyota devised the “Toyota Production System” to transform its manufacturing processes. The idea was further refined in the book Lean Thinking, and distilled down to five core ideas¹:

  • Value—specify the value desired by the customer
  • Value Stream—identify the value stream for each product providing that value and challenge all of the wasted steps (generally nine out of 10) currently necessary to provide it
  • Flow—make the product flow continuously through the remaining value-added steps
  • Pull—introduce pull between all steps where continuous flow is possible
  • Perfection—manage toward perfection so that the number of steps and the amount of time and information needed to serve the customer continually falls

According to the Lean Enterprise Institute, “The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.”

Although Lean started in manufacturing, the principles have been applied in other industries, including healthcare, and some healthcare organizations have made major commitments to Lean transformation. ThedaCare in Wisconsin, Virginia Mason in Seattle, and Denver Health in Colorado were pioneers, and now help other organizations adopt Lean as a framework for continuous improvement. ThedaCare created the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, which was renamed Catalysis last November. Virginia Mason founded the Virgina Mason Institute. Denver Health offers training through its Lean Academy.

In this article, we’ll take a high-level look at Lean, give some examples of how it has transformed clinical processes, and show how the principles can be (and have been) applied in the context of digital healthcare marketing.

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