As more and more institutions embrace Lean techniques, specialist Lean practitioners and healthcare professionals are together learning how best to apply these principles to sustain early successes and expand the approach across the entire organization.
The first phase of the Lean journey in healthcare is characterized by operational improvement projects that lead to advances in efficiency and performance (often in areas such as the Emergency Department, Laboratory, Surgery or Ambulatory Care). After a couple of successful years, however, hospitals often hit a brick wall for a number of reasons:
Those hospitals that have managed to maintain their momentum recognize that Lean management is not a series of projects but a new approach to working, where continuous improvement is part of everyone’s job. The challenge for leadership is integrating this approach into everyday working life.
“The question is not whether there is opportunity to improve. We are falling over opportunities, as most staff and patients can readily see. The real challenge is sustainability.” -Nigel Edwards, Global Center of Excellence for Healthcare, Director, Global Health System Reform, KPMG in the UK
The early achievements of applying Lean principles to healthcare have been useful.