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"Go lean" for a more efficient, profitable doctor's office

In the past four years, Seattle-based Virginia Mason Medical Center has improved patient and staff satisfaction, increased revenue, and improved overall quality of care, and it has a Japanese auto manufacturer to thank for it. In 2002, Virginia Mason revamped its practice using the Virginia Mason Production System, an in-house adaptation of the Toyota lean production system, a rigorous management system focused on eliminating waste and mistakes to deliver a quality product. Although Toyota uses the process in automobile factories, some of the same principles apply to healthcare and can improve the quality of care in an office-based setting, says Shirl Diaz, MAOM, director at Virginia Mason Kirkland, a division of Virginia Mason Medical Center.