Since originally championed by Toyota in the1950’s, we’ve seen LEAN Process improvement and design move from manufacturing into a variety of industries including aerospace, engineering, architecture, and today we’re seeing its growth in healthcare. While becoming more accepted and even “commonplace,” there are some misconceptions;


Misconception #1: LEAN is something you can implement in an afternoon.

“Going LEAN” is not something you can decide to do in an afternoon or over lunch—the actual implementation of lean principles is an ongoing journey. Transitioning to a “LEAN operation or organization” is more than simply the application of a different set of tools and techniques; it’s a change in your organization’s foundation that will take time, effort and discipline to succeed.


Misconception #2: Lean principles can’t be used in existing healthcare systems.

Actually, LEAN principles are applicable in existing healthcare systems. Granted, it may be easier to design a new hospital with surgical preparation suites in close proximity to the operating rooms from the ground up, but there are plenty of changes that can be made to streamline intake processing, patient care and staff duties.


From reducing and relocating supplies to where they are most used, moving a nursing station to a more central and visible location or streamlining and redesigning processes to eliminate waste, small changes can save time and money throughout any healthcare facility.


Misconception #3: LEAN principles are expensive to implement.

LEAN is often seen as expensive when in fact, with the paybacks achievable over time, the opposite is true. LEAN is about identifying and eliminating waste and improving processes and “flow;” it is about implanting ideas and systems, not expensive tools or equipment. Eliminating waste can create more capacity in existing programs and practices, which can eliminate the need for more square feet or expensive new construction. Many times simple and less expensive renovations and/or less space can greatly improve the flow of the operations. With reliable and standardized processes, medical mistakes decrease, which can save hospitals and clinics hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.