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.

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.

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.

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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 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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