Lean thinking has emerged as a promising approach for reducing waste and improving efficiency. However, its applicability to and effectiveness within healthcare, particularly within hospital-based care, remains clouded by uncertainty. This paper attempts to answer the question “how lean thinking can best be applied to hospital-based care?”.
narrative review and conceptual synthesis
We first review the principles of lean thinking, and how some of them are challenging to apply within hospital-based care. We then highlight that lean is an approach that was always meant as a combination of technical expertise and a focus on people – supported by a suite of human resource management supportive practices. We proceed to introduce evidence stemming from the literatures on perceived organisational support and the psychological conditions for successful staff engagement with their work (namely: psychological meaningfulness, availability and safety as experienced by staff), and review how they may apply to hospital-based health workers. We finally advance a set of hypotheses regarding how different facets of value in a hospital care pathway may be correlated and these relationships mediated/moderated by perceived organisational support and the psychological conditions for engagement with work.
We conclude with a discussion of the limitations of our work and the aspiration that the conceptual analysis we have offered is a useful and actionable framework for hospital management to explore how best to support their staff – in a manner that ultimately achieves better quality and patient experience of care.