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A critical look at Lean Thinking in healthcare
  1. T P Young1,
  2. S I McClean2
  1. 1
    School of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK
  2. 2
    School of Computing and Information Engineering, Faculty of Computing and Engineering, University of Ulster at Coleraine, Coleraine, UK
  1. Professor T P Young, School of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, St John’s Building, Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK; terry.young{at}


Background: With healthcare, Lean Thinking encounters a world, not devoid of value, but awash with sophisticated and mutually unconnected concepts of value.

Design: Given a shortage of systematic analysis in the literature, this paper provides a preliminary analysis of areas where the read-across from other sectors to healthcare is relatively well understood, based on a broad review of its impact on care delivery. It further proposes areas where conceptual development is needed. In particular, healthcare, with its many measures of value, presents an unusual challenge to the central Lean driver of value to the customer.

Conclusion: We conclude that there is scope for methodological development, perhaps by defining three themes associated with value—the operational, the clinical and the experiential.

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  • Funding: This work has not been supported by any specific programme. However, much of this thinking has benefited from the involvement of TY in the MATCH Programme (EPSRC Grant GR/S29874/01) and SMcC and TY in the RIGHT proposal and programme (EPSRC Grant EP/E019900/01).

  • Competing interests: TY has received fees and research funding for work on process improvement, simulation and information technology in relation to healthcare.