Posted by: Knightbird | June 21, 2011

Lean Clinic Design

For years I have been reading about the benefits of Lean Healthcare Design. The first article I read was about the Clearview Cancer Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I was impressed by how the design was able to improve patient flow, reduce the length of the patient journey, increase patient throughput—but most of all, how the design contributed to a longer patient life.

My curiosity extended to the Sutter Health Clinic pre-design process. Their statement about results: “Our pre-design process resulted in a facility that reduced staffing by 40%, patient wait times by 50%, building square footage by 30% and energy consumption by 25%.” Sutter Health was not talking about incremental improvements. Their results are game changing.

Virginia Mason used lean design for their new Kirkland Family Practice clinic with again, amazing results. The link shows a video interview with Dr. Kim Pittenger of VM on Health Tech Today. He talks about their mission to produce the “Perfect Patient Experience.” Their philosophy is not based on saving money, but on doing things right. Using a Versus Technology system (RFID based) they know where the patient is at all times. A graphical display tracks patients and providers.

Mark Graban has posted interviews with the design staff of the new St. John’s Mercy Rolla Clinic that shows dramatic improvements in building productivity.

Chugachmiut has thought about the lack of efficiency in design with it’s regional clinic, and as I explore the potential for a green, efficient clinic with great patient flow, I become excited. We will be analyzing our cost going forward with our existing facility with the cost of a lean designed facility. There are many potential benefits, as outlined above. One such benefit is that European energy design has greatly reduced energy consumption. With fuel oil hovering at $4 a gallon, the payoff period for an Alaska facility may be reasonable. But even more exciting are the tremendous improvements that can accrue to patient health when they have quality time when needed with a caring and knowledgeable provider.


  1. But how many patients are cured, or live to applaud your improved statistics?

  2. Mr. Clayton, Our efficiencies have allowed us to explore new possibilities for improving a wide array of health outcomes through our Restoration to Health Strategy. By addressing unresolved childhood trauma, the scientific research holds considerable promise for reducing the burden of chronic disease among our patients. By teaching chronic care self help, which we have started, we are beginning to make an impact on chronic disease and survival. It’s tough, but having an efficient management system focused on patients and continuous improvements helps tremendously. Thanks for your question.

  3. In the current national healthcare debate the government has all but given up on reducing cost. They mask that by saying the goal is to reduce the cost curve. In other words slow the rate of future growth. I would love see them to take advice from lean practitioners such as you, but I won’t hold my breath.

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