When you think of the word ‘lean’ you may think of health and fitness first before hospital comes to mind.  But the lean methodology just may be what puts healthcare practices back in the driver’s seat of controlling their bottom lines.  

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In today’s unpredictable healthcare environment, healthcare staff is being asked to do more with less—less technology, less time, less workspace and less exertion from team members—all while trying to provide a high level of service. 

How can this be possible?  Lean methodology, or lean thinking, can be the solution to a seemingly impossible task. The lean methodology is the efficient use of resources, staff and technology to provide exceptional service to the ultimate healthcare customer—the patient. 

Lean methodology has been implemented in many industries and its principles and practices have been applied to health care organizations with success.  

Here are the five key principles of utilizing the lean methodology to help improve care. 


Continuous Improvement

Lean methodology promotes a culture of continuous improvement in which leaders and team members are constantly aiming to raise the bar to drive value. 

Creating Value

The ultimate goal of lean methodology is to improve value.   Every single step in a process should produce value for the patient. 

The Value Stream

No one is able to view the patient experience as well as the patient.  They feel the waiting, the pain, the confusion, all of the pain points.  Examining the value stream will help you to identify waste within a process.  Here you will identify what needs to be eliminated immediately within your processes.  Every step within a process will have one of these outcomes:

  • It creates crystal clear value
  • It creates no value but can be unavoidable due to the structure of the current process
  • It creates no value and should be eliminated as quickly as possible


We all know that patients are unpredictable. The most critical part of flow improvement is to improve communication.  Flow involves things like waiting and wasted motion. You can improve flow when every team member uses the same approach and care to improve the patient experience.  The ultimate goal of flow is to make sure that a process is continuously being worked on and improved upon until complete. 


Pull refers to both the patient and supplies needed for patient care.  Healthcare today involves pushing the patient—we tell them what to do and when to do it.  Pull for patients is making sure that they are able to get to their appointments and that they are always reminded not to miss them. 

Ready to go lean in healthcare?  Now you have the knowledge and know-how to create more value for your patients by implementing the 5 principles of the lean methodology to optimize the flow of work leading to profitable business results. 

With so much riding on a fine-tuned office, the time is now to focus on streamlining your practice’s business operations. 

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Dr. Gregory Sanders is a Harvard-trained, practicing cardiologist and founder and CEO of HybridChart. He has been coding since the 1980s and has spent his medical career focusing on improving processes. His patient care skills earned him recognition as one of Phoenix Magazine’s TOP DOCs. He lives in Scottsdale with his family.