The concept of Lean Healthcare has its origins in the Kaizen method, developed in Japan after the Second World War, given the country’s need to reach the Western powers and be in a position to compete economically with them. Kai in Japanese means “change” and zen, “better”, and the phrase “a long road begins with a small step” summarizes the meaning of kaizen.
The Lean concept in Health Organizations.
Adopting kaizen is assuming the culture of continuous improvement, which focuses on the elimination of waste and the waste of productive systems without pretending great changes, but gradually, orderly and gradually. The benefits that are achieved by applying the Kaizen tools in the clinics and hospitals of the world are improvements in Quality, Productivity, Costs and Level of Service. In Spain, they are also shown in several national experiences in the health field.
In healthcare organizations this methodology is also applicable: the concept “Lean Healthcare” is already being incorporated as a tool for improvement in the strategic plans of organizations and centers of the health and social sector. Excellent results have been demonstrated, both in care and non-care processes, ranging from the reduction of costs and errors to job security.
It was introduced in Spain by the Hospital de Calahorra Foundation, in La Rioja, which adopted it in 2000 to improve logistics; in 2008 it was incorporated by the Integral Sanitary Consortium of Catalonia and later by the hospitals Clinic and Health Park Pere Virgili of Barcelona, Fuenlabrada de Madrid and Dexeus de Barcelona, and USP San Jaime de Torrevieja .
The implementation of ‘lean’ focuses on optimizing workflow, eliminating all those activities that do not generate value and optimizing all existing flows together during the care activity (professionals, information, materials, equipment) in order to be able to create a care process capable of responding to demand. Or put another way: it aims to “reduce the total cost and deadlines, and increase productivity without increasing the pressure on the staff”.
Reasons to apply the lean healthcare method in the healthcare environment.
- Patients deserve the best. Today most healthcare services are plagued with inefficiencies. Offering an efficient service that flows without interruptions and that does not generate tensions is the best way to improve the quality of care.
- Health professionals deserve the best. There is a direct correlation between employees and their productivity. Professionals who work in non-optimized environments become frustrated and stressed. The most satisfied workers generate higher levels of patient satisfaction.
- The country deserves the best. The cost of public health is increasingly a greater weight of GDP and is beginning to question its sustainability. The only way to provide better services at a lower cost is to improve the internal efficiency of our service delivery processes.