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Customer Experience and Design

Creating a Lean Mean Healthcare Machine: Part 3

In my last blog post, we took a deeper dive into understanding the 5 Basic Lean Principles of the Lean Methodology and how incorporating these principles can help healthcare organizations achieve smooth process flows, while concentrating only on those activities that add value and eliminate activities or “waste” that do not provide any value.

In this blog I would like to focus on the specific “7 Deadly Wastes” of the Lean Methodology and how they impact healthcare organizations.

The “7 Deadly Wastes” of Lean:

Waste elimination is one of the most effective ways to increase the profitability of any business1. The Lean Methodology focuses on “7 deadly wastes.” Taiichi Ohno (developer of Toyota Production System) suggests that these account for up to 95% of all costs in non-Lean environments2.

The 7 wastes or “muda” as it is referred to in Japan, provide a systematic way to categorize problems and identify improvement priorities. When assessing a process, looking for the 7 Deadly Wastes helps healthcare organizations find more opportunities to streamline the flow of work and provide continuous process improvement3.

For simplicity’s sake, Healthcare Professional Partners created the table below to help define and illustrate the 7 Deadly Wastes, with specific healthcare examples4:







Defects (Rework)

Work that contains errors or lacks something of value

Medication errors Rework

Variation in outcomes Incorrect charges/billing

Surgical errors

Lack of understanding of what is “defect free”

Lack of specification in work processes

System redesigns that support workers in doing their good work by clear specification of activities of work, clear expectations of outcomes and safe environment for problem solving in the course of work

Clear definition/ understanding of what is “defect free”

Single, clearly understood method of addressing “defect free” right now


Redundant work

Duplicate charting

Multiple forms with same information

Copies of reports sent automatically

Misinterpretation of regulations

Poor communication between departments, offices

No clear specification of who needs what

Computer systems not linked

Clear interpretation of regulations

System (electronic or paper) of information traveling with patient that eliminates redundancy


Idle time created when people, information, equipment or materials are not at hand

Waiting for other workers at meetings, surgeries, procedures, reports

Patients waiting for appointments, MD visits, procedures

Poor understanding of the time required to do a task

Poor accountability for delivering on time

Compounding delays

Unresponsiveness of scheduling systems to demand of work

“Right now” scheduling

Fewer meetings; work done in small focus groups

Matching capabilities to demand for services, supplies


Required relocation/delivery of patient, materials or supplies to complete a task

Delivery of medication from central pharmacy

Staff travel to a remote storage room to retrieve supplies

Delivery of surgical pack to OR

Non-standardized supply location

Supplies to complete one task located in multiple locations

Conduct 5-S workplace organization to standardize location of supplies near the point of work

Examine staff location as related to commonly used supply storage locations



More materials on hand than are required to do the work

Overstocked medications on units

Overstocked supplies on units and in warehouses

Supply/demand not well understood

Outdated supplies not deleted

Personal preferences catered, duplicated

Supply exactly what is needed; no more, no less

Keep supply availability current

Understand personal preferences and orchestrate “like” items use



Movement of people that does not add value

Looking for information

Looking for materials and people

Materials, tools located far from the work

Inconsistent information systems (includes communication)

Materials stocking that does not match the demand

Scheduling that creates work-arounds and re-work

IT systems that match the demand of work Reliable communication systems

Fluid materials availability that meet the current demand

Consistent scheduling that meets the demand

Excess Processing

Activities that do not add value from the patient/customers perspective

Clarifying orders

Redundant information gathering/charting

Missing medications Regulatory paperwork

Work area layout that does not promote continuous flow

Complex flow of medication delivery from pharmacy

Multiple/complex forms

Work area re-designs to create continuous flow

Simplified/consistent delivery systems for meds/materials/information

Forms that document only essential information

Understanding and eliminating the 7 Deadly Wastes can help to achieve improvement in healthcare by enabling the organization, and its staff, to examine their own workplace and eliminate wasteful activities. In return the organization will reduce cost, increase profits and most importantly improve the patient experience.

Stay tuned for my next blog, as I conclude the Lean Healthcare series by providing readers with a better understanding of the “5S’s of the Lean Methodology,” an effective tool to help improve the physical work environment and increase patient satisfaction.

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Priyal Patel

Priyal Patel is a healthcare industry expert, strategist and senior solutions architect for Perficient. With more than 10 years of healthcare industry experience, Priyal is a trusted advisor to C-level executives, senior managers and team members across clinical, business, and technology functions. Priyal has a proven track record of helping providers and health plans execute enterprise-level transformation to drive business, clinical, financial and operational efficiencies and outcomes.

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