Improving healthcare with lean

Maybe because I have a background in pharmaceutical research, I’m always particularly interested to come across examples where Lean has been used outside of the more “traditional” production environments. There’s a short article on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network entitled How we revolutionized our Emergency Department; certainly an eye-catching title.

The article describes what is essentially a Lean transformation at the Emergency Department of the Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. It’s an impressive piece of work, both in terms of what they achieved (customer satisfaction went from the 6th to 99th percentile) but almost more so the amount of work everyone there put in. Within an 18-month period, they learned about Lean, got agreement across the management they that they really had a problem and tested out many improvements. About half the ideas tested survived, which makes sense as even the most efficient approach that happens to, for example, reduce patient safety must be blown straight out the water.

Given an aging population with ever-increasing demands on healthcare and today’s economic realities for healthcare funding, improved use of scare resources is a necessity. Perhaps, less obviously, making the whole healthcare and hospital environment more patient centric is also important. Not only does this make the experience better for the patient, it also can reduce complications and increase compliance. And that is good news for everyone.

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