INDUSTRY – A VITAL PARTNER IN POWERING UP HEALTH SYSTEMS
Fostering LEAN methodology within Healthcare
EFPIA believe securing the future of health systems starts with financing them according to their true value to societies and economies. Smart spending on pharmaceuticals will be essential to help improve efficiency, but pharmaceuticals account for only one fifth of health expenditure.1 True efficiency gains will require organisational reform to integrate services and budgets in people-centred ways, and align them toward common goals of improving health outcomes. Only then can investments in one area generate long-term or system-wide value.
We recently caught up with one of our member companies, Takeda (Italy), who shared with us the work they have been doing to advocate and support an approach to process re-design known as Lean methodology within the healthcare sector in Italy.
Lean methodology, which originated in the Japanese manufacturing sector, considers ‘value’ from the perspective of the recipient of the process (i.e. the patient). It provides a framework for identifying value-adding steps as well as process failures in order to improve the patient experience and reduce demands on staff time. Often it may direct to simple methods of improving services rather than systems that add complexity without brining value to the patient.2The approach has been increasingly applied within the healthcare sector where it has been shown to improve quality of healthcare delivery, increase effectiveness of processes and reduce costs.3 4
The team at Takeda (Italy) are strong advocates for this approach and are committed to supporting awareness of the Lean methodology in Healthcare. In 2013, they started supporting Siena University to offer a Masters degree on the topic of Lean Management in Healthcare. The masters is now in its eighth year with more than 100 students from across Italy having completed the course. The team have formed several partnerships with Regions or Hospitals to implement numerous lean projects across Italy. Takeda Italy are also sponsors, along with other companies, of the Lean healthcare awards in Italy which were initiated in 2018 to recognise and share experiences of Lean projects (www.leanaward.it). The number of projects submitted have increased each year, reflecting an increased interest in the area, with 120 projects submitted for the 2021 edition. The projects submitted reveal improvements in a wide range of areas demonstrating the breadth of application of this approach. These include an impact on patient outcomes, waiting times, travel times, hospital capacity, quality of service and staff overtime.
The Takeda team hope to continue to promote a Lean approach in healthcare so that this methodology is not confined to a few virtuous experiences but can become more systemized to maximise efficiency and deliver healthcare that is most valued by patients.
Efficiency and Patient centricity are two of the core priorities identified in the EFPIA POWER Up Report. Future health systems must become more efficient, but it is important to define efficiency carefully. We believe that improving efficiency means maximising the patient- and population-level health outcomes achieved through a certain health investment (smart spending), or maintaining the same outcomes while achieving long-term savings for health systems or society. This is closely related to the concept of value-based healthcare, which Efpia and our member companies firmly support, and we see the Lean methodology as one approach to better identify what matters most to patients.You can read more about our POWER Up priorities for a future-proof health system here: It’s time to Power Up health systems: a vision for future-proof health systems.
 OECD (2022), Pharmaceutical spending (indicator). doi: 10.1787/998febf6-en. Available at: Health resources - Pharmaceutical spending - OECD Data [Accessed April 2022]
 Trebble TM, Hydes T. Redesigning services around patients and their doctors: the continuing relevance of lean thinking transformation. Clin Med (Lond). 2011 Aug;11(4):308-10.
 Bektas G and Kiper F. Applications of lean in human resources management in healthcare. J Pak Med Asscoc. 2022;72(3):532-536.
 de Barros LB, et al. Lean Healthcare Tools for Processes Evaluation: An Integrative Review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2021;18(14):7389.