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Aligning Six Sigma And Healthcare

Jul 25, 2008
Technological developments are happening at a brisk pace, overtaking existing systems and educational developments.

The ever-increasing demand in this sector has had negative impact, leading to overcrowding of hospitals and customer complaints.

Main Objectives

The Six Sigma methodology aligned with the healthcare sector is a very good option to bring about process improvements with quick results. Improvements are required in common areas such as cost management, service provision and quality of clinical services in healthcare organizations.

The major objectives of quality healthcare relate to safety of patients, quality services for patient happiness and reduced turnover of staff by providing good working conditions. Sufficient operating margins are also a main goal.

For example, in critical areas, such as the operating room and the entire process of surgery, there may be issues such as pre-op delays, unavailability of surgeons, anesthetists and even some equipment. In these cases, a Six Sigma project that applies the lean concept to pre-op process can bring about major improvements.

The safer and more efficient the emergency department is, the more patient satisfaction will increase.

Using Kaizen events to monitor equipment or replenish supplies and staffing schedules for medical staff are some of the tools of Six Sigma that can be very useful. In some cases, problems regarding the availability of rooms and support staff at hospitals arise.

In this scenario, scheduling processes done using the Six Sigma methodology can prove effective. It helps by reducing defects and medical and prescription errors.

Training, Commitment and Leadership

In the healthcare environment, the management of processes and information is challenging. There is a lack of usage of data in a meaningful way. With lives on the line, hospital administrators tend to concentrate on finding urgent solutions - and the real issues or causes of problems may be forgotten or ignored.

Six Sigma defines formal goals for healthcare organizations and the timeline to bring them into force. Well-defined goals are connected to organizations' performance measures.

For a successful implementation of Six Sigma projects in health care organizations, commitment of management and Six Sigma training, coupled with a long-term vision, are necessary. The commitment of top-level management has to be communicated to the lowest levels of the organization and Six Sigma training imparted to the members. The cost of Six Sigma training is justified when the results of the first projects show breakthrough results.

In this way, process effectiveness improves, and the reduction in defects and waste brings about savings for the organization as well. Frequent communication of performance helps ensure that everyone connects to the overall goals, be it nursing, housekeeping, billing, administration or any other area.

Six Sigma initiatives help increase patient care and satisfaction, physicians' satisfaction and bring about cost savings that leads to stronger growth of the organization. Each healthcare organization has its own set of distinct requirements, so there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for the healthcare sector.

Healthcare organizations can learn from the best practices of the other organizations and use the appropriate Six Sigma approach that fits their specific culture and concerns. They can then live up to their commitment to provide the best services to the community.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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