Hospitals Learning from Hospitals


Oshkosh Northwestern – Systems turn to ThedaCare

There's a great sense of community and sharing in the hospital space — something the manufacturing world can learn from, I think. Sure, it's possible to spend your whole career working in a single hospital and never seeing other ways of doing things, but hospitals have a few built-in mechanisms to help with sharing and spreading of ideas:

  • A history of peer inspections (through certification organizations)
  • Labor mobility (people jumping from institution to institution)

Can hospitals do more to share best practices and good ideas? Of course. There's such an opportunity for the manufacturing world to do the same thing, especially in non-competing cases. Does your town have an organization of local manufacturers who help each other out? Or, are you hung up on the idea that only people inside your sub-industry and market can help you? You'd be surprised how much a shoe manufacturer might be able to help a company that makes tubing. Having fresh eyes and new perspectives can help. Maybe you can try an exchange with a neighbor in your industrial park? Walk each others' processes and see what questions come up. I've written before about a local Lean group I was a part of when I lived in Phoenix.

Maybe another inherent advantage hospitals have is that hospitals are basically like other hospitals (except for specialty hospitals… but they're still hospitals). Does that encourage better sharing and collaboration? A hospital in Florida might be more willing to help a hospital in Washington, since they're not competitors, so that dynamic is different than in manufacturing.

Back to the article I linked to… it's about hospitals visiting ThedaCare, in Wisconsin, a hospital that gets a lot of attention for their impressive Lean efforts.

ThedaCare is no stranger to finding ways to reduce patients' time in a hospital while ensuring they receive optimum care.

For the past four years, the Appleton-based health system, has applied lean methods, similar to models followed by many manufacturers who are streamlining production to reduce costs.

Those principles also have worked for ThedaCare. Today through Friday, representatives from Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, will meet with about 150 health care leaders from nine different systems across the country.

Read the rest of the article…

Have you tried to increase collaboration in the manufacturing world? What have you tried? What would you like to try? Click “comments” to let us know. What can we do to help facilitate this? We've been able to use the blog a few times to put people in touch (with me playing middle man). Can we do more of this?

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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. Mark, We recently held our second annual Iowa Lean Healthcare conference, which is sponsored by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative and was attended by representatives of over 50 hospitals and clinics. We have a “steering committee” group that meets once a quarter to plan events and set up learning opportunities. It’s really starting to work, as many of our member healthcare organizations are starting to adopt the continuous improvement philosophy.

  2. I recently attended a 1-day conference in our state focused on Lean techniques. I don’t know how many businesses were represented, but there were quite a few attendies for a small (population) state with relatively limited exposure.

    About a year ago, I also started a Lean forum that meets monthly in my hometown (population about 24,000). We tour facilities, share ideas, and conduct some training. The group is diverse, representing manufacturing, construction and healthcare, with the hope of including retail and service agencies.


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