Using the LEAN Approach to Bring About Continuous Quality Improvement

The LEAN continuous quality improvement approach was first implemented by Toyota to improve its production system. Today, organizations in numerous industries now make use of this process to improve their efficiency and productivity, and healthcare is no exception. The goal is to remove any activities that do not add value, ensure tasks are mistake-proof, and emphasize the reduction of waste to improve all aspects of healthcare delivery. To accomplish this, workflows are established, handoffs are identified, and only those processes that may be maintained long-term are implemented. Seven key areas are addressed during this evaluation.

The Seven Key Areas

  1. Overproduction
  2. Time spent in queue
  3. Transportation
  4. Processes that do not add value
  5. Inventory
  6. Motion
  7. Quality, scrap, rework, and inspection costs

How it Works

LEAN focuses on removing any burdens and inconsistencies from healthcare processes. It does so by eliminating redundancy, minimizing waste as much as possible and discarding any tasks that involve unnecessary effort. The goal of the LEAN process is to develop systems that are efficient and ones that bring together clusters and groups of related processes as opposed to individual ones.

How Does LEAN Differ from Other Quality Improvement Options

First and foremost, this option focuses on the process, looking for interdependencies while simplifying any processes that have become too complicated. It is best for those problems that have already been discovered and have a system change solution. Many organizations prefer this method as it looks at the practice or organization as a whole and no department is overlooked when LEAN is implemented. As a result, complex healthcare organizations and practices with multiple locations find they benefit from its use, as operations are standardized across all practice sites and units.

Processes that are overly complex interfere with productivity and efficiency in the workplace. LEAN focuses on simplifying these processes to bring about positive changes and improve the quality of healthcare. It is a holistic approach and therefore should not be used for small, discrete changes within an organization. It is most effective when used in larger organizations but can be of great benefit to small practices that operate in a larger network. Learn more to see if this process will help to improve your practice or organization and allow you to provide a higher level of care.