Podcast #124 – Paul O’Neill on Patient Safety

MP3 File (run time 27:51)

For quotes and transcript, click here.

I have a very special guest for Podcast #124 –  he is Paul O’Neill, the U.S. Treasury Secretary from 2000 to 2001 and former CEO of Alcoa. Mr. O’Neill is sharing his thoughts on patient safety and healthcare, including his time spent as the Chair of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative and his work with Dr. Richard Shannon in dramatically reducing hospital acquired infections to near their “theoretical limit” of zero. Dr. Shannon will be a podcast guest next month. Mr. O’Neill talks about the leadership required to have such an impact on safety and quality, drawing on lessons from his years as Alcoa’s CEO.

This podcast was produced in conjunction with the Healthcare Value Network  as a continuation of their previous podcast series.

For a link to this episode, refer people to  www.leanblog.org/124. You can also read quotes from the podcast in this blog post.

Podcast Summary

You can also read and download this 4-page PDF summary of the podcast:

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About Paul O’Neill:

Paul O’Neill is a founder of Value Capture, LLC, where he provides counsel and support to health care executives and policymakers who share his conviction that the value of health care operations can be increased by 50% or more through the pursuit of perfect safety and clinical outcomes. He was the 72nd Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, serving from 2001 to 2002. During his 21 month tenure, the lost workday rate among Treasury employees fell by more than 50%. He was the chairman and CEO of Alcoa from 1987 to 1999 and retired as chairman at the end of 2000. Mr. O’Neill led Alcoa to become the safest workplace in the world, while increasing its market capitalization by more than 800%. Today, Alcoa operates across more than 40 countries at a lost workday rate that is 20 times lower than the average rate for American hospitals. Prior to joining Alcoa, Mr. O’Neill was president of International Paper Company from 1987 to 1985 and was vice president from 1977 to 1985. He served as the deputy director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 1974 to 1977, where he served on staff beginning in 1967. He worked as a computer systems analyst with the U.S. Veterans Administration from 1961 to 1966. During his government service, Mr. O’Neill helped to shape many of the policies which define the American health care system today. He serves as a board member at the National Quality Forum, RAND, and more than a dozen other major corporations and non-profit organizations.

For earlier episodes, visit the  main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS or via Apple iTunes.

You can use the player (use the VCR-type controls) at the top of the post to listen to a streaming version of the podcast (or click here for the streaming audio and RSS subscription). The streaming link is faster for one-time listening (hardly any delay to start listening). Or you can use the download link to put it on your iPod or other MP3 player.

If you have feedback on the podcast, or any questions for me or my guests, you can email me at leanpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave a voicemail by calling the “Lean Line” at (817) 776-LEAN (817-776-5326) or contact me via Skype id “mgraban”. Please give your location and your first name. Any comments (email or voicemail) might be used in follow ups to the podcast.

To read the full transcript of this podcast, plus over 20 more discussions with world-renowned Lean leaders and other interesting guests, please consider buying my e-Book or a special package that includes an easy download of all of the MP3 podcast files. It’s also available through the Amazon Kindle store.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to be notified about posts via email. Learn more about Mark Graban’s speaking, writing, and consulting.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Paul O’Neill on Lean Leadership for Healthcare — Lean Blog

    […] by Mark Graban on October 12, 2011 · 0 comments Hat tip to Dan Markovitz for pointing out this excellent post on John Toussaint’s blog: “The Key Leadership Behaviors in a Lean Organization?” The post is a letter written by Paul O’Neill answering a question from a hospital leader. Paul O’Neill is a great leader in the patient safety movement and you can listen to my podcast with him here. […]

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    […] destroy trust that people have in our healthcare providers and facilities. Lean is often a “safety first” philosophy in manufacturing companies and we need more of that thinking in healthcare, instead of focusing just on cost and […]

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