Lean Healthcare featured on PBS Nightly Business Report

Friday night’s PBS program the Nightly Business Report had a nice feature on the use of Lean at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove, Illinois. The video is embedded lower in this post, but you can read the transcript here: “Lean Clean Hospitals.” That’s a better headline than “Lean Mean Hospitals,” I suppose. It’s a very positive story and is some good exposure for Lean healthcare and Lean, in general.

As the story describes, the hospital is a Malcolm Baldrige  National Quality Award winner and they have seen patient satisfaction and market share increase through their use of Lean methods and principles.

The story starts at 14:35 into the video and runs through 18:07.

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Watch Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 on PBS. See more from Nightly Business Report.

The story starts with the unfortunate stereotype that factories, yet alone Lean ones, would be dirty:

A dusty, dirty factory may not be the obvious source of inspiration for a clean and sterile hospital. But many hospitals are finding better ways of doing business by looking at factories.

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Ironically, hospitals aren’t always as clean as they are supposed to be (for infection control purposes) and many factories have that “floor so clean, you could eat off of it” look.

In what might seem like an ironic touch, the story describes a group of Japanese visitors to the hospital, learning about their Lean practices. These Lean ideas evolve and change slightly as they continue going back and forth across the Pacific:

  • From Henry Ford and Dr. W. Edwards Deming to Japanese manufacturing
  • From Japanese manufacturers to American manufacturers (including Ford Motor Company) and the rest of the world
  • From U.S. hospitals to Japanese hospitals (arguably, U.S. hospitals started with Lean before those in Japan)

There some comments from the hospital president in the piece and a quote from the head of the Joint Commission:

Despite Good Sam`s success with lean, only about a quarter of the nation’s hospitals are now using some form of it. Dr. Mark Chassin, president of the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, hopes that will change.

It’s always hard to tell “what percentage of hospitals are using Lean.” It depends on what “using Lean” means or what “some form” means. It could be part of a hospital using a few practices or the organizations like ThedaCare and Virginia Mason and the others where Lean is becoming their culture and their management system.

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. Dean Bliss
    Dean Bliss says

    Good P.R. for the cause. Spreading the word of continuous improvement helps us all. Thanks for highlighting the show.

  2. Neutron Jerk says

    I guess it’s good to have Lean mentioned on national TV. I was left wondering “why highlight this hospital?” The CEO seems to “get it” that there is waste everywhere… but their results seemed pretty vague or unclear. They talked about the risk of errors – so how have they measured quality improvement exactly?

    I was left wondering why this hospital was featured when they are just starting to roll out Lean across the hospital. Are there better examples out there with more measurable success? This hospital seems well intended and maybe on a good path, but worth highlighting on the national news?

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