5S in Healthcare

August 1, 2011
By Darren Dolcemascolo

Developed in Japan, 5S is a system for creating and maintaining an organized, disciplined workplace. In English, we usually use the terms Sort, Set-in-Order (or Straighten), Shine, Standardize, and Sustain (or self-discipline). Sort entails removing all supplies, information, equipment, and materials from the work area that are not utilized regularly. Set-in-Order means organizing and making transparent all items that are needed for regular work so that they can be immediately accessed and used when needed with no delay. Shine means cleaning the workplace and daily restoring the workplace to its "set in order" status. Standardize means creating standards to ensure that Sort, Set-in-Order, and Shine are applied consistently, and Sustain means creating a work environment or culture that maintains the discipline to keep the workplace organized and continuously improve it. The 5S system is an ongoing way of doing work, not simply a 5 step process. It can be used in manufacturing, clinical, and administrative environments.

Let's consider an example within the healthcare environment. The ThedaCare case is upheld as one of the greatest successes in lean healthcare. One of the news interviews, actually about an effective methodology called collaborative care, revealed an excellent example of 5S. About 11:00 into the video, which covers the concepts of collaborative care, you will be able to see how 5S reduces waiting and motion waste; supplies are organized on carts and replenished regularly to ensure that no time will be wasted searching for supplies. Where can this be applied in other parts of the healthcare industry? Physicians offices, surgery centers, hospital supply storage areas, etc. The applicability of such a simple tool that most people think is only for production environments is huge. Please watch the video for more details on both collaborative care and 5S:

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