The first question some physician anesthesiologists might ask is if lean process improvement (LPI) is some new diet fad. Just as a good diet seeks to shed pounds by eliminating unneeded or wasteful calories combined with an active workout program that tones the muscles, LPI is a problem-solving methodology and culture that, when adopted in health care, drives system-wide improvement in patient-centered care, quality, safety, efficiency and staff satisfaction. Before we get into the specifics, it is reasonable to ask what factors are driving health care organizations to adopt LPI and why physician anesthesiologists would want to add this new skill set.

The current trajectory of health care spending in the United States, as a percentage of the GDP, is not sustainable. Over the last decade there has been a movement toward value-based purchasing in health care. Two landmark...

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