(Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of “Lean Healthcare,” as a consultant, author, keynote speaker, and blogger. I reached out to him to chat about his approach to applying Lean in hospitals and healthcare organizations. You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.)
Q: Lean has a long history in healthcare. What are some of the current trends and understanding of “lean” in hospitals and healthcare?
A: Some of the earliest experiments with Lean methods in healthcare were in Seattle in the late 1990s. Two of the longest-running examples of the adoption of Lean in healthcare include ThedaCare, a health system in Wisconsin, and Virginia Mason Medical Center, in Seattle, which have been using Lean as an improvement model and a management system for 12 or 13 years now. Those organizations, along with some others, have really embraced Lean as a new culture, modeling themselves after Toyota in some ways, while maintaining, of course, the special values and purpose of a hospital.
Even with those shining examples, however, far too many health systems have a limited view of Lean, thinking of it as just an improvement methodology or as a set of tools or projects. The best Lean success comes from adopting Lean as a culture and a management system... yet, we’re still hoping to see more of that in healthcare. It’s unfortunately easier for people to adopt a few new tools to use in their existing, and often dysfunctional, organizational cultures.