Abstract: Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide some insights and discuss opportunities and challenges of applying the Lean principles in the healthcare sector.
Design/methodology/approach – The papers presents the experiences gathered during the Swedish national development programme “Lean healthcare”. 60 persons from the management of the 20 county councils participate in the development programme initiated by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL). The purpose of the programme is to critically review and discuss how the Lean principles can be applied in healthcare. The results presented in this paper are the compilation of the discussions and work done within the programme.
Findings – “Lean production” represents a fresh way to look at work systems within healthcare. Several key tools and principles have proved to be effective in improving healthcare processes. Lean focuses on removing waste in any form and relentlessly strives to eliminate problems. The current healthcare systems are designed with a focus on the doctors, nurses and other clinical staff and are not optimized for the patients. Healthcare services are often ‘batch and queue’ with patients spending most of their time waiting. This approach is contradictory to Lean: it is like designing processes with a focus on the employees rather than the product they make. However some Lean principles are not easily transferred. With high variations in demand, which many healthcare organisations face, the application of the principles “pull” and “one piece flow” provide a real challenge. To achieve sustainable results with Lean, a paradigm shift has to take place in the minds of people. Lean involves a different way of thinking, communicating, making decisions and managing. Swedish healthcare managers need to make a major shift and development in people management.
12th International QMOD and Toulon-Verona Conference on Quality and Service Sciences (ICQSS)