The Only 6 Lean Healthcare Articles You Need To Read

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

The process of lean management was made popular by Henry Ford when he created a better workflow for assembling vehicles—a decision that revolutionized the manufacturing sector. In more recent years, lean management has become an increasingly popular choice in a number of other industries, including healthcare.

If you’re ready to create a Balanced Scorecard that supports your healthcare strategy, we’re here to help.

We’ve pulled together six lean healthcare articles from around the internet (in no particular order). If your organization is looking for lean examples, you simply must read these.

The Only 6 Lean Healthcare Articles You Need To Read

1. Learning to be Lean: One hospital’s staff discovers improving efficiency isn’t easy

This Modern Healthcare article has a bit more of a journalistic vibe than the others, making it a really fun and effortless read. It describes how the staff at Presence Health’s Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center wants to improve efficiencies but has a difficult time doing so.

The essence of the article is that lean healthcare takes a lot of time and effort—and a major upfront cost—to work effectively. This article demonstrates firsthand how much feedback and pushback you’re likely to hear, but the overhaul and transformation it can cause are staggering.

2. 4 Common Mistakes of Hospitals Implementing Lean Management

Marc Hafer, the CEO of a lean company called Simpler Consulting, shares four mistakes hospitals make when they implement lean healthcare—and how you can avoid them. This is a quick read (only 700 words), but his tips are noteworthy. The first mistake, according to Hafer, is to not allocate enough resources. Hafer believes that “Very few hospital organizations… have had the kind of infrastructure with [the] dedicated resources [required].”

3. 6 Stories on Using Lean as a Hospital Strategy

This is less of an article and more of a compilation of six links—but it’s still a great resource. We highly suggest reading all six of these use cases for lean in healthcare and hospitals, as you can learn something from each of them.

4. The Promise of Lean in Health Care

This PDF was created by Mayo Clinic—and while it’s a little longer than the last few articles, it’s chock-full of helpful, thorough examples. The abstract explains that the goal of the article “is to provide a template for health care leaders to use in considering the implementation of the Lean management system or in assessing the current state of implementation in their organizations.” 

If you only have time to skim this article, pay close attention to the first paragraph beneath each of the six principles—and you’ll still walk away learning something. Noteworthy to this article is this sentence from the conclusion: “The underlying goal of Lean is to improve value for the patient. Innovation through Lean’s proven methods provides hope for better health care at less cost rather than worse health care at less cost. To us, this choice is clear.”

5. Four Lessons on Lean Healthcare

This article isn’t as easy to skim, but if you have a few minutes to read it, it’s well worth it. The author describes four different lessons he’s learned while working on lean management in healthcare. For example, his second lesson: “…what distinguishes Lean management is its focus on developing the capabilities of the front-line teams (doctors, nurses and support staff) to manage and continuously improve their work.”

6. A Practical Guide to Applying Lean Tools and Management Principles to Health Care Improvement Projects

This is an academic article published in a nursing journal. If you’ve already read through the higher-level articles listed above and want a better idea of how to put lean healthcare into practice at your organization, this is an excellent guide.

In Summary

If lean healthcare is done correctly, it’s an opportunity to better serve your patients and improve your internal processes. Many healthcare organizations associate lean with cutting down resources or forcing employees to take on too much of a workload—but as you’ve learned in the articles above, the whole idea behind lean is to improve efficiencies and quality of care by eliminating the aspects of your processes that don’t contribute to high-quality healthcare. And that’s a goal every healthcare organization can get behind.

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