8 Types of Waste in Healthcare

The term "waste" encompasses an array of definitions for hospitals and health systems, including wasted time, finances, steps and human potential, to name a few.

Here are eight types of waste in healthcare, as defined by Mark Graban in his book Lean Hospitals, and shared in Ernst & Young's Health Care Industry Report 2013.

1. Defects. This includes all time spent doing something incorrectly and inspecting or fixing errors. One example of defect waste is the time spent looking for an item missing from a surgical case cart.

2. Over-production. This includes doing more than what is needed by the patient or doing it sooner than needed. A broad example of this is the performance of unnecessary diagnostic procedures.

3. Transportation. Unnecessarily moving patients, specimens or materials throughout a system is wasteful. This type of waste is evident when the hospital has a poor layout, such as a catheter lab located a long distance from the emergency department.

4. Waiting. Waiting for the next event to occur or the next work activity can eat up time and resources. Patients waiting for an appointment is a sign of waste, as is employees waiting because their workloads are not level.

5. Inventory. Hospitals create waste when they incur excess inventory costs, storage and movement costs, spoilage and waste. One example is letting supplies expire and then disposing of them, including out-of-date medications.

6. Motion. Do employees move from room to room, floor to floor and building to building more than necessary? That accounts for one type of waste. Lab employees may walk miles per day due to a poor hospital layout, for example.

7. Over-processing. This describes work performed that is not valued by the patient or caused by definitions of quality that aren't aligned with patient needs. One example is extra data stamps put onto forms, but that data never being used.

8. Human potential. This waste is caused when employees are not engaged, heard or supported. Employees may feel burnt out and cease sharing ideas for improvement.

More Articles on Healthcare Efficiency:

Controlling Your Organization's Clinical Assets for Cost Savings and Improved Efficiency
Reengineering the Patient Experience Through Standardization
Single Sign-on: A Simple Solution to the Overcomplicated Login Process for Clinicians, More Efficient Care for Patients

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