Georgia Tech Forms Health Care Performance Group to Apply Lean Management Principles

To help address rising costs and improve the quality of health care, the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EII) has created a health care performance group. The new group will work with health care providers and service organizations to apply lean management principles – a set of tools derived mostly from the Toyota Production System widely used in manufacturing – that helps identify and steadily eliminate waste from an organization’s operations.

“The United States is facing a health care crisis because of rising costs, bottlenecks in the system and declining customer satisfaction,” said Wayne Hodges, vice provost in the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Health care is an integral part of our economy, and this group will explore the opportunities to improve efficiency in the health care sector.”

Project leaders in the newly-formed group will work with health care professionals to conduct lean assessments, teach basic lean concepts, develop value stream maps to analyze the flow of materials and information, and implement rapid process improvement projects. The group has already begun working with nine hospitals across the state.

One of the group’s first projects was with the emergency department at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Ga. As a result of the lean health care implementation, Meadows realized outstanding results. Physicians, on average, are seeing more patients per hour than before the lean implementation. In 2005, average length of stay per patient was 247 minutes; in 2007, it was 139 minutes – a 44 percent reduction. Success is also reflected in a 92 percent patient satisfaction rating.

At Meadows, the lean implementation in the emergency department was just the first step.

“Our next steps involve applying lean to the registration process, including online patient registration, self check-in kiosks and bar-coding. In addition, when we build a new, state-of-the-art facility, we want to use lean processes before architects even draw up the building,” said Alan Kent, president and CEO of Meadows. “We’ll draw a building around the parameters of the number of ER visits, OR visits, square footage needed, beds needed, budget, et cetera. We want to optimize process before we draw the first line. We want form to follow function.”

Steve Mayfield, senior vice president of quality and performance improvement at the American Hospital Association’s Quality Center, believes Georgia Tech’s lean health care methods could improve hospitals nationwide.


“Hospitals that focus on the flow of the patient while reducing non-value added steps see accompanying gains that include improved outcomes, increased operational performance, enhanced safety and higher satisfaction for patients and care providers,” he said. “The Quality Center is licensing Georgia Tech’s simulation model, and we regularly partner with them to demonstrate these tools and techniques to hospital leaders.”

Through its Healthcare Performance Group, Georgia Tech project leaders work with healthcare professionals to conduct lean assessments, teach basic lean concepts, develop value stream maps to analyze the flow of materials and information, create quality systems and implement rapid process improvement projects. For more information on healthcare performance improvement services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Jennifer Trapp-Lingenfelter () or (

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

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Writer: Nancy Fullbright