Efficacy and efficiency of a lean cataract pathway: a comparative study

Ellen Joan van Vliet, Walter Sermeus, Claudia M van Gaalen, Johannes C A Sol, Jan M H Vissers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    BACKGROUND: The demand for cataract surgery is rising, calling for pathways that have good access and are cost-effective. Lean thinking is a management strategy, aimed at improving quality while reducing costs. Lean production processes are designed to identify gaps between expected and actual performance.

    AIM: To analyse the efficacy and efficiency of a lean cataract pathway.

    METHODS: Lean care delivered to a prospective cohort (616 cataract patients) was compared (1) with traditional care delivered to a historical cohort (591 cataract patients) and (2) with expected lean care in the prospective cohort. To evaluate efficacy, the authors analysed how many patients received care that adhered to the lean pathway's specifications. To evaluate efficiency, the authors analysed how often patients visited the hospital and how many additional patients could access the pathway.

    RESULTS: In the lean pathway, patient visits decreased by 23%, and access to the cataract pathway increased with 42%. A 40% decrease in patient visits and a 76% increase in access could have been realised if healthcare staff would have adhered to the lean pathway's specifications.

    PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Lean pathways can realise large improvements, and still have a significant gap between expected and actual care delivery. The challenge for healthcare teams is not to improve care delivery by using lean pathways as opposed to using traditional pathways, but to strive for optimal performance by consistently adhering to the specifications of the lean pathway.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e13
    JournalQuality and Safety in Health Care
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


    • Aged
    • Aged, 80 and over
    • Cataract Extraction
    • Cohort Studies
    • Critical Pathways
    • Efficiency, Organizational
    • Female
    • Humans
    • Male
    • Middle Aged
    • Netherlands
    • Prospective Studies
    • Total Quality Management/methods


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