Organizational Factors Influencing the Sustainability of Lean Healthcare

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Technology

A directed project report by Karl D. Kraebber 

The United States health care system is currently battling a serious problem; excess waste. The current health care system is not able to deliver timely, efficient and safe care to those who need it, when they need it and at a price they can afford. Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry has dealt with the problem of waste by implementing lean systems. Lean systems were developed by Toyota to combat the critical problem of process waste. Lean systems are not just a “toolbox” for problem solving used by industry; lean is a management philosophy aimed at continually improving. The United States health care system must continue to explore and implement lean systems; but must remain cognizant of certain organizational factors which are essential to the sustainability of lean system in health care.

In order to assess the factors that influence the sustainability of lean health care, two part research was conducted. Hospital systems that have successfully implemented and sustained lean health care were visited. From those visits a survey was developed. That survey instrument was posted on the Society for Health Systems website and distributed via the HME Yahoo group listserve for lean and medical professionals to complete. This survey helped to identify the important factors that influence lean system sustainability, as well as, identify pitfalls which other institutions have encountered to help ease the transformation of future hospital systems.

The top five influential organizational factors, according to survey participant free responses, include:

  • Leadership engagement
  • Employee engagement
  • Leadership development
  • Effective communication of goals
  • Effective communication of results

Organizational culture, employee empowerment and financial commitment were also ranked as influential organizational factors. These organizational factors must be recognized and addressed in order to ensure successful implementation and sustainability of Lean healthcare systems. 

View full survey results (Note: This is a large file and may take some time to download.)