There were more than a few raised eyebrows when a handful of pioneering hospitals decided to test the principles of Lean manufacturing a decade or so ago. Skeptics argued that techniques designed for the factory floor could not work in a healthcare setting.

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Mark Britnell

Such doubts have largely been banished, as organizations around the world have removed obstacles or unnecessary steps to improve the quality of the patient experience, increase safety and efficiency, reduce costs and free up staff to concentrate on care rather than administration.

The goal now is to find a way to sustain these gains, with many hospitals struggling to maintain their early momentum after the first couple of years of effort. One of the greatest challenges in healthcare is to move beyond projects to make improvement part of the ‘daily work’ at the frontline.

Some hospitals have managed to break through this barrier to create an environment full of problem solvers, and in this paper we take a look at how they have made this significant leap forward in creating a culture of daily continuous improvement.

The insights gained provide valuable lessons for future success, laying out the path that hospitals can follow to become truly Lean.

Breaking through the wall - Removing the barriers to Lean transformation

The early achievements of applying Lean principles to healthcare have been useful.

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