About Lean

What is Lean?

Lean is a patient centred approach to managing and delivering care that continuously improves how we work. There are many processes involved in health care. Lean is about finding and eliminating waste in these processes. Waste is defined as anything that does not add value from the patient’s perspective.

Lean makes health care better in several ways:

  • It increases safety, by eliminating defects and errors
  • Staff doing the work are the ones who look for waste and find better ways to deliver care
  • It reduces cost, by getting rid of waste
  • Patients have better health outcomes

How is Saskatchewan using Lean in health care?

We are committed, as an entire system, to using Lean methodology to ensure the care we deliver is compassionate and patient- and family centred, with no harm to patients and no waiting.

Over the next four years, nearly 900 people working in our health care system will be trained in Lean and we will run more than 1,000 Lean projects.

How long will Lean take?

There will always be an opportunity to make care safer, timelier, more effective and more efficient. The investment in and application of Lean methodology is not a time-limited project, but rather a new way of managing and delivering health care, and a new way of relating to and working with patients as partners in their care.

What is the impact of Lean on people involved in health care?

Patients, family members:

Patients and families are participating in Lean improvement efforts. Health regions are inviting them to add their voice and perspective to many improvement activities. Over time patients should see improved care that is safer, more efficient, compassionate and patient- and family centred.


Frontline staff has a key role to play in identifying and fixing broken processes. They know the systems and processes best. Managers are engaging frontline staff on improving care processes and removing barriers to implement the solutions. Supervisors are going to where the care is delivered, to ask questions, to listen and to observe.

What is the Saskatchewan Health Care Management System?

It is how we are taking the tools and principles of Lean and applying them to our unique local environment. The Saskatchewan Health Care Management System is our local, homegrown, “made in Saskatchewan” approach to building a world class health system.

Many health regions now have a Kaizen Promotion Office to coordinate local improvement activities. Kaizen is a Japanese word that means continuous, incremental improvement. This continuous improvement work is coordinated at a provincial level through the Provincial Kaizen Promotion Office at the Health Quality Council (HQC). In total there are 18 participating organizations – including all health regions; Athabasca Health Authority; and provincial agencies like Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, eHealth, 3sHealth and the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health coordinates, with senior leadership in the regions, the strategic planning of short and long term Lean priorities. John Black and Associates, LLC is facilitating the deployment of the Saskatchewan Health Care Management System.

Where can I get more information about how Saskatchewan is using Lean to make health care better and safer?