imageCulture of Continuous Improvementcommitment to ongoing, real-time learning

CASE Lean Improvement Efforts at Denver Health

In order to reduce waste from the customer perspective, and to build respect for people and continuous improvement into its operations, in 2005, Denver Health adopted Lean—a strategy for reducing waste and improving continuously—as the philosophy and toolset to use in redesigning care. Denver Health utilized a two-pronged approach to implement Lean: (1) organizational leaders (Black Belts) trained in Lean used Lean in their day-to-day work to identify and eliminate waste and (2) week-long rapid-improvement events were derived from 16 areas of focus or “value streams.” The areas of focus spanned the entire integrated system of care, from paramedics to obstetrics and from back-office functions to clinical care.


  • Since August 2006, $158 million in financial benefit realized despite a 60 percent increase in uncompensated care
  • Achieved lowest observed-to-expected hospital mortality (among University Healthsystem Consortium)
  • Widespread employee acceptance of Lean philosophy—78 percent of employees understand how Lean enables Denver Health to meet its mission


Please contact: Phil Goodman (

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