Profile of ThedaCare’s CEO


John Toussaint, M.D. – Profile

From the University of Iowa alumni site, here's a nice Q&A with one of the leading advocates for Lean in healthcare, Dr. John Toussaint, CEO of ThedaCare, which is mentioned often here on the Lean Blog. Let's consider this a mental “palate cleanser,” since he has such a positive attitude about improvement, leadership, and teamwork. You won't hear a lot of excuses from Dr. Toussaint.

From the Q&A:

Please describe your professional interests?

Presently I am doing a lot of work on quality improvement. Our organization of 5,300 employees is on a journey of continuous improvement. We are learning from Toyota how to create defect free care for our patients using the ThedaCare Improvement System.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

My philosophy is to improve something everyday. Our industry is stuck on compliance, not improvement. We are changing that at ThedaCare.

If you could change one thing about the practice or business of medicine, what would it be?

Stop the shame and blame and start working together as a team to improve the care we deliver.

What do you see as “the future” of medicine?

It is bright, but it will be about improvement not apprenticeship. Go spend a day at Toyota and you will see the future of healthcare.

Great lessons that can be applied anywhere.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I heard on a Lean Six Sigma podcast that Toyota owns their own hospital in Japan and that they just started in the past year implementing Lean Methods in that hospital. My question is then does Toyota have the background to teach American Hospitals and Health Systems these manufacturing methods?

  2. Hi Bob, I think you might have heard it in my Podcast with Jeff Liker about lean in healthcare.

    I think Toyota has the background to teach Lean thinking and principles to anyone (including police departments) as described in this WSJ article.

    The great thing about the state of Lean today is that you can get a lot of good education and coaching without going all the way to Japan.

    Would you rather have Toyota or ThedaCare teaching you about Lean Hospitals? I’m not sure how I’d answer that.

  3. I am quite impressed with the ThedaCare Lean Model and I do think that Lean Methods need to be customized to the healthcare world. From Supply Chain to Diagnostic Imaging, Lab, Surgery out to day to day patient care they all have their own unique dynamics.

    I would be most interested in knowing if they are able to apply Lean Methods to eliminate waste and inefficiencies in the actual supplies they buy (not inventories or logistics) which a system that large could be over 30,000 SKUs—and most effect quality and service excellence and of course outcomes every day.

  4. Bob – Yes, many hospitals are improving their materials systems, using kanban, item rationalization/consolidation, vendor kitting, and other methods. This is leading to both higher availability (fewer stockouts) AND reduced inventory. This is happening in pharmacies, OR’s, laboratories, etc. It’s not reinventing anything that hasn’t already been done in other industries.


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