Lean supply chain management in healthcare: a systematic review and meta-study

Sasan T. Khorasani, Jennifer Cross, Omid Maghazei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose: By applying a systematic literature review, this paper aims to identify the major healthcare problem domains (i.e. target areas) for lean supply chain management (LSCM) and to provide a list of the most common techniques for implementing LSCM in healthcare. Moreover, this study intends to investigate various contingency factors that may have influenced the selection of LSCM target areas or the application of LSCM techniques by healthcare organizations. Design/methodology/approach: A systematic literature review was carried out following the method presented by Tranfield et al. (2003). Thereby, 280 peer-reviewed journal articles, published between 1995 and 2018, were selected, profiled and reviewed. In total, 75 papers were also selected for a qualitative analysis, known as meta-study, on the basis of high relevancy to the research objectives. Findings: This work extracts, from previous research, a set of target areas for improving supply chain in healthcare by applying lean approaches. The work also unifies the language of lean thinking and supply chain in healthcare by defining metaphors in circumstances under which healthcare organizations pursue similar objectives from their supply chain management and lean programs (Schmitt, 2005). This paper also outlines a list of applications of lean for supply chain improvement in healthcare. Finally, a set of contingency factors in the field of lean supply chain in healthcare is found via the published literature. Practical implications: This paper provides insights for decision-makers in the healthcare industry regarding the benefits of implementing LSCM, and it identifies contingency factors affecting the implementation of LSCM principles for healthcare. Implementing LSCM can help healthcare organizations improve the following domains: internal interaction between employees, supply chain cost management, medication distribution systems, patient safety and instrument utilization. Social implications: The research shows potential synthesis of LSCM with the healthcare industry’s objectives, and, thus, the outcome of this research is likely to have positive influence on the quality and cost of healthcare services. The objectives of the healthcare industry are cost reduction and providing better service quality, and LSCM implementation could be an effective solution to help healthcare to achieve these objectives. Originality/value: The prime value of this paper lies in conducting a systematic literature review using a meta-study to identify the major factors of implementing LSCM in healthcare. Only a few other studies have been published in the literature about LSCM in healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Journal of Lean Six Sigma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2020


  • Healthcare service
  • Lean
  • Supply chain management
  • Systematic literature review


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