Lean Healthcare

How to Use Lean Tools to Create Lean Hospitals

One of the key principles of Lean Thinking is to eliminate delays which consume up to 95% of the total cycle time. If you've ever been a patient in a hospital emergency room or bed, you know there are lots of delays. Over the years, health care has made tremendous strides in reducing cycle time in various aspects of care. Outpatient surgeries are one example: arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon. No bed required. But there is still room for improvement.

Lean Healthcare Uses Two Key Tools

Value Stream Maps

Help identify and eliminate unnecessary delays in handling patients, bills, calls or whatever.

value stream map

Spaghetti Diagrams

Help identify and eliminate unnecessary movement of staff, patients, materials or whatever.

spaghetti diagram

A focused team can create either of these Lean Tools in a hour or two with both the before and after process flow.

See how QI Macros meets the IHI Improvement Advisor SPC Software Guidelines.

Examples of Lean Value Stream Mapping Applied to Hospital Operations:

Value Stream Mapping Tip: Most of the delays are in the arrows between steps..

Booking Hospital Operating Rooms

Booking Hospital Operating room Value Stream Map

Call Center Billing

Hospital Call Center Value Stream Map

Example of a Hospital Nursing Unit Lean Spaghetti Diagram for Travel Time

These spaghetti diagrams show before and after lean process improvement changes that saved 50% of nurse travel time. This lean analysis took about an hour.

nursing unit Spaghetti Diagram

Here's a Lean Hospital Lab Spaghetti Diagram

The current design and process redesign took about two hours.

Hospital Lab redesign Spaghetti Diagram

Here's a Lean Healthcare Team using Post-it® Notes to value stream map an existing process and develop an improved process flow:

Lean Healthcare Value Stream Mapping

Unfortunately, most healthcare facilities were designed by architects, not doctors, nurses and patients. This means that every hospital nursing unit, emergency department, operating room, lab, imaging center, registration area and so on are ripe for improvement. Value Stream Maps and Spaghetti Diagrams will eliminate 80-90% of the unnecessary delays and movement while increasing productivity of staff and profitability of hospitals.

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