Virginia Mason Mentions Learnings from Toyota in Full-Page NY Times Ad


Hat tip to regular blog reader Andrew B. for letting me know that A17 of today's New York Times was a full page ad placed by Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center, one of the leading examples of the use of Lean methods in healthcare.

The ad, pictured below, celebrates VMMC being named as one of two “Hospitals of the Decade” as determined by the Leapfrog Group. Click on the ad for a possibly readable view.

As you can see in the chart, VMMC ranks near the top in terms of the Leapfrog quality score AND they are near the top of the “Resource Use” scale – better quality (top notch) at a lower cost.

The ad publicly recognizes the inspiration from Toyota. It says in part:

After looking in vain for outstanding examples of progress to learn from within the U.S. healthcare industry, Virginia Mason leadership ventured very far outside the box.

Their search took them across the world, to Japan, and across industries, to Toyota, where they studied concepts and processes at automobile plants. Medicine and healthcare are obviously quite different than manufacturing cars (or anything else), but management concepts such as continuous improvement and zero-defect processes can be applied to a wide range of human activities.

Virginia Mason began to apply some of those principles to healthcare management and organizational structure. Over the years, Virginia mason leaders crafted what now is known as the Virginia Mason Production System – VMPS.

The ad highlights some of their improvements and results, including:

  • Nurses now spend 90% of their time with patients (Mark's note: a good industry benchmark is 30-35% elsewhere)
  • Time to report lab results has fallen 85%
  • Hospital has saved $1M a year in supply expenses
  • Patient safety and quality professional liability insurance cost has fallen 48% from 2004 to 2009
  • Medications are now available in 10 minutes instead of 2.5 hours after the physician order was written

Congratulations to Virginia Mason and thanks to them for sharing their story to serve as an inspiration to others.

Again, you can read more about their journey in the new book, Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center's Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience and you can read my review of the first three chapters here.

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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. Very nice. It really is great to see what a great job a few health care organization have continued to do. The power of lean thinking over the long term and integrated deeply into the culture of the organization is huge.

  2. […] Joining me today for Episode #204 is Paul Plsek (@PaulPlsek) and we’re talking about his excellent book (a Shingo Research Award recipient this year) titled Accelerating Health Care Transformation with Lean and Innovation: The Virginia Mason Experience. Virginia Mason, of course, is Virginia Mason Medical Center, the outstanding Lean organization that was named “Hospital of the Decade” by Leapfrog Group. […]


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