Original Research

Impact of Lean on patient cycle and waiting times at a rural district hospital in KwaZulu-Natal

Logandran Naidoo, Ozayr H. Mahomed
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 8, No 1 | a1084 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v8i1.1084 | © 2016 Logandran Naidoo, Ozayr H. Mahomed | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 November 2015 | Published: 26 July 2016

About the author(s)

Logandran Naidoo, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Grey’s Hospital, South Africa
Ozayr H. Mahomed, Discipline of Public Health Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: Prolonged waiting time is a source of patient dissatisfaction with health care and is negatively associated with patient satisfaction. Prolonged waiting times in many district hospitals result in many dissatisfied patients, overworked and frustrated staff, and poor quality of care because of the perceived increased workload.

Aim: The aim of the study was to determine the impact of Lean principles techniques, and tools on the operational efficiency in the outpatient department (OPD) of a rural district hospital.

Setting: The study was conducted at the Catherine Booth Hospital (CBH) – a rural district hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: This was an action research study with pre-, intermediate-, and post-implementation assessments. Cycle and waiting times were measured by direct observation on two occasions before, approximately two-weekly during, and on two occasions after Lean implementation. A standardised data collection tool was completed by the researcher at each of the six key service nodes in the OPD to capture the waiting times and cycle times.

Results: All six service nodes showed a reduction in cycle times and waiting times between the baseline assessment and post-Lean implementation measurement. Significant reduction was achieved in cycle times (27%; p < 0.05) and waiting times (from 11.93 to 10 min; p = 0.03) at the Investigations node. Although the target reduction was not achieved for the Consulting Room node, there was a significant reduction in waiting times from 80.95 to 74.43 min, (p < 0.001). The average efficiency increased from 16.35% (baseline) to 20.13% (post-intervention).

Conclusion: The application of Lean principles, tools and techniques provides hospital managers with an evidence-based management approach to resolving problems and improving quality indicators.


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