Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the differences between Lean Healthcare and Lean manufacturing with a group of hospital executives.  Several things stood out for me as we each reflected on our experiences and observations of each:

Lean Manufacturing

  1. Tasks in Lean Manufacturing are broken down and defined into the smallest detail using job instruction sheets located where the work is done.
  2.  “No defects” means accepting no defects, making no defects, and passing on no defects.  So problems are identified at the source and an immediate response occurs to a call for help to solve the problem. 
  3. Performance measures are available in real time and everyone is aware of what the current performance is and if missed, why it missed. 

Lean Healthcare

  1. We have made great strides in accepting evidenced based practice and standardizing much of our work and yet the task of creating job instruction sheets for each activity is overwhelming.  I find that using job instruction sheets for high-risk, problem prone tasks to be meaningful. 
  2. In healthcare we have created complicated processes, some necessary, perhaps some not so.  The first step to making no defects is to simplify and eliminate unneeded steps in a process. 
  3. We have a great deal of data in Lean Healthcare and yet little information on real time performance.   Even less information is available on performance to those who actually do the work.  Despite increasing technology, the best knowledge of performance still requires collecting simple data at the source, making it visual for all to see, and implementing immediate response to problems. 

Each of these challenges we face in implementing Lean Healthcare is possible if we remember to K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple & Standardized (no not that other “S” you may have heard before).  What processes have you “kissed” lately?


This week’s blog was written by Maureen Sullivan, a senior associate at HPP.

Maureen has over 28 years of healthcare experience in clinical nursing, management and quality leadership to Healthcare Performance Partners.  As a registered nurse, Maureen’s clinical experience is in medical surgical nursing with progressive responsibilities in nursing management at the front line, middle management, and administrative levels.

Maureen has an associate degree in Nursing from Joliet Junior College and a bachelor of science in nursing with an emphasis in healthcare management from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado. Maureen achieved certification from the National Association for Healthcare Quality, certified professional in healthcare quality (CPHQ), Colorado State University in process mapping, and University of Michigan in Lean Healthcare.

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