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Guidelines For Six Sigma Healthcare Project Selection

Jul 25, 2008
Customer satisfaction (i.e. the satisfaction of the patients) is of utmost relevance to any healthcare organization. It is not restricted to giving proper treatment, but involves other services such as billing systems, availability of rooms and so on.

It becomes imperative to select a Six Sigma project that would bring about substantial improvements in critical services.

Prioritizing Activities

Potential Six Sigma projects for healthcare organizations may be related to the workflow of the registration and billing systems, the clinical procedures of medication administration or Intensive Care Unit procedures. All these activities are relevant - but all of them cannot be improved simultaneously.

Prioritizing and selecting areas that need immediate improvement is critical to the success of the Six Sigma project. A few guidelines should be followed when selecting Six Sigma projects in a healthcare organization.

When prioritizing the appropriate project, significance has to be given to customer requirements first. The critical to quality (CTQs) elements for the project have to be understood. The customer need not be the patient only; it can also be nursing staff, physicians and administration or department heads as well.

Equally important is to understand the complex nature of the problem. The higher the complexity with measurable response variables, the better the prospect for a Six Sigma project. Some problems may be sorted out by using other tools like CAP (Change Acceleration Process) and Workout, which can be applied to cases that simply need direction and facilitation.

Common Characteristics

Typically, for Six Sigma project selection, there has to be identifiable input and output of the processes. Some common characteristics of Six Sigma projects are the feasibility of resources and data, clearly defined goals, alignment of critical hospital issues and visible benefits of the initiatives to customers. There also has to be a considerable improvement on implementation of the project.

The QFD (Quality Function Deployment) tool can be effectively used to gain agreement on the best area for the Six Sigma improvement. By carrying out interviews and surveys, the data can be collected and the CTQs determined.

When the data is collected, the Six Sigma team has to determine the problem area (which can be controlled) and the solution that would be to the benefit of the organization. If a simple project that can show some quick results is undertaken, it can help bring about more support and provide a thrust to further initiatives.

By choosing something that is time-bound, the project solution will become more meaningful and long lasting. The effort and results can be sustained over a longer period of time. Additionally, if it is not of a controversial nature, which may lead to layoffs, then the change may not face much resistance.

By using a prioritization matrix, the CTQs can be weighed and the critical functions taken up for improvement.

Healthcare organizations should work on selection of the proper Six Sigma projects, those that will power measurable benefits for the organization. Depending upon the needs and priorities of each organization, they should select the project accordingly and bring about changes that will help provide the best services to customers.
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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