Lean Thinking is now being successfully applied to the healthcare industry. The philosophy isn't intended to eliminate or reduce the number of employees working in the industry. It is seeking only to eliminate waste in all tasks and processes so that time, materials, resources, and procedures can be utilized as efficiently as possible. This enables healthcare organizations to dedicate more time and effort to patient care without extra cost to the patient or organization. In summary, Lean Thinking can be used to:
- Decrease costs while increasing patient satisfaction
- Provide better quality healthcare while utilizing the same employees
- Increase healthcare employees’ motivation and job satisfaction
- Improve and maintain a high quality of service
Although Lean isn't the solution for every problem faced today in healthcare, it can certainly make some dramatic improvements that provide sustainable, positive improvements in a variety of areas, including:
- Laboratory services
- Operating room procedures
- Accident and emergency (A&E) departments
- Healthcare workers
- Healthcare administration
Applying Lean Thinking can help increase the space required to carry out laboratory testing and sample analysis. This in turn helps to increase productivity, efficiency, and the accuracy of results, while decreasing the amount of time that patients have to wait to receive test results.
Operating Room Procedures
Applying Lean Thinking to operating room procedures can help reduce the time taken between operations, therefore increasing the number of procedures that can be undertaken in a day. Lean Thinking can also be used to increase operating room space and reduce the number of tools and amount of inventory used. This can help decrease the costs and make the operating room an easier and more effective location for surgeons and operating staff.
Accident and Emergency (A&E) Departments
Lean Thinking can help reduce the amount of time that an A&E patient has to wait before receiving attention.
By increasing patient satisfaction, improving the work environment, and potentially decreasing the long hours that healthcare workers have to endure, Lean Thinking can help improve job satisfaction, morale, and motivation, and make the industry a more attractive prospect for new staff.
Lean Thinking can be used to improve the efficiency, speed, and costs involved in the administration and processing of patient information and any data used in the day-to-day running of a healthcare organization. Again, this helps these organizations to run more smoothly, and it increases patient satisfaction with the service that they are receiving.
Lean Thinking means that processes must be designed to ensure optimal results. Hospitals can be viewed as having multiple lines of business or processes, depending on the specific type of service or care that each provides to the patient. Lean Thinking needs to be implemented with this in mind. Two of the main principles associated with the system are that all value is the result of a process, and that the appropriate process will produce the appropriate results. These principles are dependent on the skill, ability, performance, motivation, and commitment of the people involved in each process and the organization itself.