Wisconsin Hospitals Adopting Lean


This story is from Wisconsin Public Radio talks about Lean at Aurora Health Care, based in the Milwaukee area. (“Hospitals Turn to Lean Management to Save Money“).

The story talks about how the health system improved the discharge process, leading to shorter patient stays. Shorter length of stay, given the current-state conditions with quality in healthcare, leads to better patient safety. Rather than being kept longer for more observation, your odds are better getting out of the hospital:

“Unfortunately, hospitals can be risky places for patients. The longer they stay, the greater the risk of things like infections and falls. So I think across the board, most people would agree that as soon as the patient is medically able, it's usually a good idea for them to leave the hospital,” Hallisy [the President of the Empowered Patient Coalition]  says.

There are already many good examples of Lean healthcare in Wisconsin, including two members of the Healthcare Value Leaders Network – ThedaCare and Gundersen Lutheran.

My only wish was that the headline didn't focus so much on saving money, since that's not the only benefit from Lean! Quality, waiting time, and staff morale are also very important benefits and goals.

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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. My spouse works for Aurora. For years, the corporation has trained staff in “PlaneTree”, an expensive “respect-for-people” approach that honors the patients and employees. Unfortunately it is not practiced by the organization of Aurora. Supervisors are squeezed for results, leading to micro-management; departments are not staffed with planned or emergency time off taken into account; billing by hospitals and cliinics is separated and often slow; refunds (from double-paying of insurance AND advance deductible/co-pay) take 30 days; etc, etc.

    I question whether the company has an environment that will gain any significant benefit from Lean principles. All it would take are a CEO and unit Administrators who know and believe in Lean, but they are not easilly found.

    The Aurora practitioners’ professionalism (quality, patient manner) at the treatment level is as good as any I have ever seen. Their management system and administrative processes are as bad as any I have seen. (I am choosing to remain anonymous to protect my spouse’s job.)


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