The current state of Lean implementation in health care: literature review

Qual Manag Health Care. 2010 Oct-Dec;19(4):319-29. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0b013e3181fa07bb.


Purpose: The purpose of this article is to discuss the current state of implementation of Lean production in health care. The study focuses on the definition of Lean in health care and implementation process, barriers, challenges, enablers, and outcomes of implementing Lean production methods in health care.

Design/methodology/approach: A comprehensive search of the literature concerning the implementation of Lean production in health care was used to generate a synthesis of the literature around the chosen research questions.

Findings: Lean production in health care is mostly used as a process improvement approach and focuses on 3 main areas: (1) defining value from the patient point of view, (2) mapping value streams, and (3) eliminating waste in an attempt to create continuous flow. Value stream mapping is the most frequently applied Lean tool in health care. The usual implementation steps include conducting Lean training, initiating pilot projects, and implementing improvements using interdisciplinary teams. One of the barriers is lack of educators and consultants who have their roots in the health care sector and can provide support by sharing experience and giving examples from real-life applications of Lean in health care. The enablers of Lean in health care seem not to be different from the enablers of any other change initiative. The outcomes can be divided into 2 broad areas: the performance of the health care system and the development of employees and work environment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Health Facility Administration / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / organization & administration
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Process Assessment, Health Care / organization & administration
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration*