Healthcare organizations around the world are striving to achieve transformational performance improvement, often through adopting process improvement methodologies such as Lean management. Indeed, Lean management has been implemented in hospitals in many countries. But despite a shared methodology and the potential benefit of benchmarking lean implementation and its effects on hospital performance, cross-national Lean benchmarking is rare. Healthcare organisations in different countries operate in very different contexts, including different healthcare system models, and these differences may be perceived as limiting the ability of improvers to benchmark Lean implementation and related organisational performance. However, there is no empirical research available on the international relevance and applicability of Lean implementation and hospital performance measures. To begin to understand the opportunities and limitations related to cross-national benchmarking of Lean in hospitals, we conducted a cross-national case study of the relevance and applicability of measures of Lean implementation in hospitals and hospital performance.
We report an exploratory case study of the relevance of Lean implementation measures and the applicability of hospital performance measures using quantitative comparisons of data from Hospital District of XX XX University Hospital in Finland and a sample of 75 large academic hospitals in the United States.
The relevance of Lean-related measures was high across the two countries: almost 90% of the items developed for a US survey were relevant and available from XX. A majority of the US-based measures for financial performance (66.7%), service provision/utilisation (100.0%), and service provision/care processes (60.0%) were available from XX. Differences in patient satisfaction measures prevented comparisons between XX and the US. Of 18 clinical outcome measures, only four (22%) were not comparable. Clinical outcome measures were less affected by the differences in healthcare system models than measures related to service provision and financial performance.
Lean implementation measures are highly relevant in healthcare organisations operating in the United States and Finland, as is the applicability of a variety of performance improvement measures. Cross-national benchmarking in Lean healthcare is feasible, but a careful assessment of contextual factors, including the healthcare system model, and their impact on the applicability and relevance of chosen benchmarking measures is necessary. The differences between the US and Finnish healthcare system models is most clearly reflected in financial performance measures and care process measures.