A Practical Guide to Applying Lean Tools and Management Principles to Health Care Improvement Projects

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Abstract

Manufacturing organizations have used Lean management principles for years to help eliminate waste, streamline processes, and cut costs. This pragmatic approach to structured problem solving can be applied to health care process improvement projects. Health care leaders can use a step-by-step approach to document processes and then identify problems and opportunities for improvement using a value stream process map. Leaders can help a team identify problems and root causes and consider additional problems associated with methods, materials, manpower, machinery, and the environment by using a cause-and-effect diagram. The team then can organize the problems identified into logical groups and prioritize the groups by impact and difficulty. Leaders must manage action items carefully to instill a sense of accountability in those tasked to complete the work. Finally, the team leaders must ensure that a plan is in place to hold the gains.

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