Common Waste in healthcare

Often we find that only a small fraction for the total time and effort actually adds value for the end customer, our patients. By clearly defining value from the customer’s point of view (e.g. patients desire short wait times), all waste or muda can be targeted for removal. In healthcare, there are seven defined wastes.

The following are the seven wastes or muda identified in healthcare:

  • MOTION:Unnecessary movement of people within a process (e.g. MDs walking into hallway to get supplies needed to do the job; patients walking back and forth to registration; repetitive stretching to reach supplies or printers).
  • RE-WORK: A task not performed right the first time that requires repetition or correction of a process. (e.g. re-ordering of supplies or tests because staff are not able to find the results; early patient discharges that lead to readmission).
  • WAITING: People or parts that wait for a work cycle to be completed (e.g. patients waiting in the emergency department to be seen; staff waiting for broken office equipment to be repaired before being able to do work).
  • OVER-PROCESSING: Processing beyond the standard required by the customer. Using more resources, energy, and time in a work process not needed by customer. (e.g. producing a paper copy of a document when the computer file may be sufficient; creating reports that don’t get read and/or are not used).
  • INVENTORY: Wasted stock on hand. Having too much. (e.g. stockpiling of office and clinical supplies that won’t be used for months; storing excess supplies with expiration dates that end up expiring; outdated, obsolete information in file cabinets or stored in databases).
  • CONVENYANCE: Moving or restacking supplies from one location to another or moving equipment/supplies further than necessary (moving equipment back and forth).
  • OVER-PRODUCTION: To produce sooner, faster or in greater quantities than customer demand. Making too much. (e.g. Printing out redundant pages in a report. Pharmacy sending medications to the inpatient ward for a patient that has already been discharge)

The wasted time and potential of people is often considered the eighth waste in healthcare. It can lead to high staff turn-over rates and job dissatisfaction. All Lean efforts are focused on identifying and driving one or more of the above wastes out of work processes.