The Lean Dentist, Revisited (and a New Video)


Updated:  There's now a link to the GBMP video at the bottom of the post.

I have long admired the Lean work of Sami Bahri, DDS and I consider him a friend (and have had a chance to visit his office in Jacksonville). Another friend of this blog, Paul Levy recently wrote about Sami and his presentation at the Northeast Shingo Conference. Dentistry Today also wrote about his work and Lean principles in dental practices, so let's look at both articles in this post.

Paul recounts some of Sami's Lean story:

Sami related how his practice in Jacksonville, Florida was growing unsustainably.   His solution to complexity was to “hire more people,” but he soon realized this was not the answer.   “I wanted to get rid of the problem.   I needed to find a theory.     With a theory, you can make quick decisions.”   He then became aware of the Lean philosophy and the work of  Jim Womack  and others.   Reading a number of books, he figured out how to apply Lean manufacturing ideas to his practice.

It's not uncommon in healthcare to assume that the solution to problems is more people, more space, more equipment and more money. But Lean principles and methods give us all alternative. One thing I love about Sami's story is that he didn't have another “Lean dentist” to copy — he had to experiment and learn based on the core books of Shingo, Ohno, and Womack. He and his team had to figure it out, which meant applying their own countermeasures to their own problems. He didn't have an easy cookbook to follow (nor should you expect to have one either).

Check out the rest of the post and a few comments from Sami by clicking here.

Dentistry Today wrote a broader piece that also included mention of Sami's practice.

…clinicians such as Dr. Sami Bahri have dramatically streamlined their practices to achieve up to 82 percent [efficiency] improvements, as well. In light of the potential gain from such an effort, added efficiency should be carefully examined in the dental practice.

The article appears to be written by somebody from a dental equipment and supplier manufacturer, as they describe their own Lean work:

To identify potential areas of improvement, we rely not just on management, but on every employee. We keep Lean principles top-of-mind and continually look for opportunities for improvement by posting “idea boards” throughout the facility, on which employees are invited to post ideas for productivity improvements. Additionally, when studying a process in one particular department, we include employees from a wide range of specialties within the company. These “outsiders” are sometimes better able to see things that aren't as evident to people who work with the system every day. We know that each employee's unique perspective has the potential to benefit the company.

That sounds like a Kaizen, or continuous improvement process, and idea boards are one method covered in my upcoming Healthcare Kaizen book.

As the article says, Lean principles are flexible enough to be applied in almost any setting – and this certainly includes dental offices and practices. There are benefits for the patients (more timely care, less waiting time), as well as the staff and the dental practice itself.

Updated: Here is a video preview of a new DVD coming from GBMP about the Bahri Dental Group:

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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 love the idea board, everyone in the company has something to contribute, this is an excellent idea. Keeping lean practices at the forefront each and every day is key to ensuring growth and success. Nice post.


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