Dr. Leonard Berry at Texas A & M University “embedded” himself within ThedaCare one year ago. He wanted to deeply understand the inner workings of a lean healthcare organization. After this experience, he asked me if I would help him to document what lean in healthcare is.
The result was this article, “The Promise of Lean in Health Care,” in the latest issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
We started with the following definition: Lean is an organization’s cultural commitment to applying the scientific method to designing, performing, and continuously improving the work delivered by teams of people leading to measurably better value for patients and other stakeholders.
We then go on to define six core principles of the lean transformation:
- Attitude of continuous improvement
- Value creation
- Unity of purpose
- Respect for front-line workers
- Visual tracking
- Flexible regimentation or standard work.
These principles are quite similar to what Womack and Jones described in Lean Thinking and are the basis of the Shingo Model.
Our intent with this paper is to bring lean thinking into the mainstream of physician activity. We use powerful examples from Healthcare Value Network. These include Christie Clinic, Inova, St. Jude’s Hospital, New York Hospital and Health System, Martin Memorial, Seattle Children’s and ThedaCare. All have been implementing the lean operating system. The question I am asked by most from CEOs and senior executives of healthcare organizations is, “What is lean in healthcare?” Our hope is this article contributes to answering that question.