No other industry places such a high a premium on quality of service as healthcare. Given the essential requirement of quality in the healthcare industry, consumers expect providers to lead the way in innovation and quality efforts in the services they provide. As a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP), we spend more on healthcare than any nation in the world. In a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, preventable medical errors are estimated to result in as many as 98,000 patient deaths each year, with a projected annual cost as high as $29 billion. These errors are believed to be one of the leading causes of death in the US. There has never been a more ripe environment for the innovative and quality improvement methods of lean practices.
Healthcare institutions are implementing lean principles and practices pioneered at Toyota and other industrial companies. The industry is currently undergoing an unprecedented change, as providers are engaged in efforts to bring their practices into compliance with the requirements of the 2011 Patient Care and Affordable Care Act. As a result, healthcare providers are under significant pressure to increase access and reduce costs while improving the quality of patient care. Because of these significant pressures, the industry is seeking innovative ways to improve quality of service and reduce costs. Lean principles and practices are now being implemented in medical environments. We know that Lean offers significant advantages over other quality improvement models by increasing efficiency and reducing waste while simultaneously improving quality of patient care.
Lean practices and principles have the potential to help balance the cost associated with healthcare, increase the job satisfaction of professionals, and fundamentally improve the health of our communities. In the current environment, there has never been a more crucial time for healthcare to operate in the most efficient manner possible, while delivering the highest quality care in a safe manner.