Implementation of Lean in Health Care a Mess: New Report

The Sask. Party's Lean project is “stifling,” “disempowering,” and not making real improvements to health care, according to a new report prepared by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan.

The report, released Tuesday, shows that researchers heard frustration from frontline health care workers about the piles of resources poured into Lean, to simply achieve “grade five...common sense stuff.” When patients were interviewed for this study, the only changes they could identify over the last two years were negative, noting that the quality of care has declined.

“Yet again, this is another scathing assessment of the Sask. Party's Lean experiment,” said NDP health critic Danielle Chartier. “This report talks about frontline health care workers and even senior administrators who are trained as Lean Leaders saying it's stifling, disempowering, focused on the wrong things, wasting resources – we’ve heard this now for years, and I can’t understand why the Sask. Party is still pouring untold millions into this toxic experiment.”

The John Black Lean program began with a $40 million consulting contract for American Lean consultant John Black, and has been expanded by the Sask. Party to include permanent offices and staff. All told, well over $145 million of taxpayer money has been wasted on the toxic experiment.

Tuesday's report, A First Phase Evaluation of Saskatchewan's Lean Health Care Transformation, was funded by the Health Quality Council, which serves as the Sask. Party's Provincial Lean Kaizen Promotion Office.

It notes that many health care workers have good ideas to improve the system, but they’re not being heard, and they don’t know how to put their suggestions forward. Researchers conclude that it may be that Lean is simply too rigid and prescriptive: “It might be that Lean tools provide structures and pathways for particular kinds of improvements but do not provide avenues for other ideas.”

This latest report comes on the heels of a peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, which concluded that Lean doesn't improve patient care and has cost Saskatchewan a whopping $1,511 for each dollar “saved.”

“Enough is enough!” said Chartier. “Let’s stop this waste, and let’s put all that money into actual patient care, directly on the front lines.”

Despite concerns around Lean in health care continuously being raised, the Sask. Party government is implementing Lean in education and other sectors.