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Process Improvement (Lean)

The Process Improvement Team (PIT) is a department that is responsible for leading, facilitating, identifying and supporting process improvement efforts across Covenant Health. Formerly known as the Lean department, the purpose of PIT is to champion process improvement efforts across the organization and to raise awareness and capacity amongst staff, physicians and leaders. The team seeks to facilitate Covenant Health staff and leaders in defining, developing, implementing, improving and sustaining processes for the benefit of our patients, residents and community.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about what we do and access resources that will help you to identify and complete a Lean Project.


The Process Improvment Team

The Consultants may serve a variety of roles in their projects, including:

  • Serving as project lead and leading many of the process/change efforts directly
  • Facilitating certain components of a project
  • Supporting leaders leading a process improvement change by being available to provide guidance, direction and clarity as needed
  • Providing education, assisting with change management, and building frontline engagement
  • Sharing of learnings and standardizing across program areas, sites and portfolios

Contact a Team Member:

Terry Qaqish

Lynn Vandenbrink

Andrea Plaisier

Department Vision

The vision of the department is:

  • To build capacity and foster a culture of continuous improvement
  • To enhance communication through all levels of the organization
  • To engage front line staff in continuous improvement
  • To ensure that our patients and residents are at the centre of all process improvement efforts
  • To emphasize best practice to enhance the patient, resident and staff experience
  • To ensure safety (patient/resident and staff) is built into all processes 
  • To eliminate waste and non-value added steps in the services and care that we provide 
  • To validate and sustain process improvement projects using accurate data
  • To identify, understand and utilize measurable data and dashboards

What is Process Improvement?

What is Lean?

Lean is a method that uses proven tools and a structured problem solving technique to achieve continuous improvement and ensure long term successes focused on improving patient/resident safety and staff experience. Lean originated from the manufacturing industry (Toyota’s Production System) with Lean processes introduced into healthcare services in the early 2000s. The purpose of Lean is to eliminate waste and other non value-added activities to improve the flow of information or resources. The methods and tools that Lean uses seek to change and improve how we do things by asking why we do things.

What Lean is Not...

There is a misconception that Lean is a cost cutting exercise when in fact, Lean considers  staff and leaders to be the key to any improvement efforts – staff are the best resource for knowing how to increase the value (in what we do) to our patients and residents. Lean seeks to reduce waste in the work we do everyday in order ensure staff and leaders are able to best use their time and skills. It’s not about fixing one major problem but rather improving the little problems that each contribute to inefficiencies.

What support services are available?

The “menu of services” which the department offers includes:

  1. I need help with a process
    • We can process map (current and future state)
    • We can help to identify the problem
    • We can help to prioritize the work and changes
    • We can identify sources of waste
    • We can evaluate and redesign the way in which services are delivered 
  2. I need help with space layout and storage
    • We can redesign your space layout
    • We can review the flow of work and people (spaghetti diagram)
    • We can help with space planning
    • We can organize the workplace (5s)
  3. I need help with a practice change
    • We can identify what process improvement opportunities exist
    • We can manage the project
    • We can facilitate meetings 
    • We support change by providing coaching
    • Data analysis
  4. I want to learn more
    • We can offer education & training to your team

I have an idea-what do I do?

Staff, physicians and leaders are encouraged to identify processes that need improvement – they are the closest to the work and to our patients/residents! While we seek to enable staff to complete process improvement work and projects on their own, we understand that process improvement may not be able to be done without some help – whether it is because of capacity, workload, scope, expertise or experience – which the Process Improvement department is able to provide.

Any potential process improvement project brought forward to the department by staff, physicians or leaders goes through an approval process to ensure (1) that unit/program/site leaders are aware and support the improvement efforts; (2) that PIT resources are available to support as required and that there is clarity on what the role of the PIT Consultant will be; and (3) that there is commitment by the staff and leaders to participate in the change efforts.

Staff, physicians and leaders are encouraged to submit their ideas for a process improvement project by submitting a Process Improvement Work Request Form.

Send the completed form to The request will be reviewed by the team within 2 weeks.

Where can I learn more?

There are several ways that you can learn more about process improvement and lean. Education opportunities are available on several selected topics – Lean 101, Process Mapping, SCORE etc.

While CLiC modules are in development, in-person sessions will be offered regularly. Check CLiC for these sessions and to register or contact for information.

If you are interested in having an education or training session planned for your unit, program, site or staff, please contact

What projects have been completed?

Since 2009, the Process Improvement Team has been involved in over 100 projects within Covenant Health and across various portfolios including Edmonton Acute Care, Seniors, Rural Health, Finance, Covenant Care, Communications and Quality.  As well as clinical departments (i.e., medicine, emergency, surgery, women’s health), lab/DI, pharmacy, nutrition and food services, and materials management.

Team members have also partnered on projects with Alberta Health Services and the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

Process improvement (Lean) projects have helped to:

  • improve capacity in outpatient departments by approximately 30% per week (over 9,000 more patients served annually)
  • improve efficiency in numerous departments by addressing rework, motion and inventory waste which resulted in saving the organization over $280,000 annually
  • create additional usable work space (over 4,000 square feet)
  • increase storage space (over 7,000 square feet)
  • improve quality of patient care (as indicated by nearly 60% of staff surveyed)
  • improve safety of staff, equipment and patients (as indicated by 75% of staff surveyed) 
  • increase communication and satisfaction amongst staff at work
  • engage staff in improving their workflow and adding more value to the people they serve 

Of the Lean projects completed to date, below is a brief one page snapshot of a few. For additional detail please contact one of the process improvement team members.

Rural Heath:

Edmonton Acute:           

Seniors and Mental Heath:

Corporate Wide:

Tools & Resources

Questions/Contact Information

If you have any questions or require assistance, please contact us at

Do you have an area or process that needs improving? Submit your process improvement idea by completing the Process Improvement Work Reqest Form and emailing it to