Lean and Green

In 2002, Virginia Mason embarked on an ambitious, system-wide program to change the way it delivers health care and improve patient safety and quality. It did so by adopting the basic tenets of the Toyota Production System (TPS), calling it the Virginia Mason Production System, or VMPS. While some medical centers have initiated projects using TPS, Virginia Mason is the first to integrate the Toyota management philosophy throughout its entire system. Naturally, we used VMPS to design and implement EnviroMason, our “lean and green” sustainability initiative.

How VMPS Works

Virginia Mason's vision is to be the Quality Leader in health care. Key to accomplishing this is understanding that staff who do the work know what the problems are and have the best solutions. VMPS strategies range from small-scale ideas tested and implemented immediately, to long-range planning that redesigns new spaces and processes. Sustainability reduces our impact on the environment and protects our patients’ health.

Virginia Mason uses several continuous improvement activities, such as Rapid Process Improvement Workshops (RPIWs) and kaizen events focused on incremental changes, as well as 3P workshops intended to completely redesign a process. Virginia Mason has held 850 continuous improvement activities involving team members, patients and guests. Many of these continuous improvement activities result in sustainability improvements.

Lean and Green Success Stories

Reducing the Number of Instruments in a Surgery Case Kit

Surgeries require a lot of different instruments, like scalpels — some of which are never used. Our Sterile Processing Department worked with our surgeons to reduce the amount of unneeded instruments in their case kits. As a result, the number of instruments that needed to be washed and sterilized from each case was reduced by about half, resulting in a significant cost savings by a reduction in team member hours, water and energy.

Setting Up Medical Donations in the Operating Room

In the OR, we set up each case with care. Occasionally, an item is unopened and isn’t used in the surgery set up. We used the tools of VMPS during a kaizen event to establish a process to donate those items to global health efforts put forward by Medical Teams International. Once the items are sorted, they are sent to a global health team who sterilizes the item onsite. This process keeps items out of the landfill, and helps to support global health efforts.

Engaging the Green Team

Virginia Mason’s Green Team is a group of employees dedicated to reducing our environmental impact. VMPS tools are used to engage the team and inform sustainability strategic planning, as well as on other sustainability projects.

Establishing an Office Supply Reuse Program

We use a lot of office supplies at Virginia Mason. As part of our VMPS effort, we “5s” or straighten up our work areas regularly. We found that unneeded supplies were building up, or even worse, being thrown in the trash. Using VMPS, we held a kaizen event focused on finding ways to reuse supplies. The end result is our “Office Supply Exchange Closet,” which has already saved us thousands of dollars and kept hundreds of pounds of items out of the landfill.

Virginia Mason Institute

Virginia Mason Institute is a nonprofit corporation that provides education and training in the VMPS management method to other health care providers and organizations. Virginia Mason Institute was established in 2008 in response to growing industry demand to learn how Virginia Mason has applied lean manufacturing principles in health care. Learn more about the Virginia Mason Institute.