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Can Six Sigma Help Improve Clinical Results?

Feb 26, 2008
It is not that Six Sigma cannot improve clinical results; it is just that Six Sigma in the healthcare sector is a relatively new phenomenon and as such, not much has been written or documented on the subject.

Additionally, since healthcare centers normally avoid sharing their internal processes, it becomes quite difficult for outsiders to assess exactly how well Six Sigma is faring in the healthcare sector. However, since almost all the information that is available in public domain is positive, it can be said with certainty that it does help in improving clinical results.

For better understanding, let us discuss some of the ongoing healthcare projects involving Six Sigma.

Project For Reducing Chemotherapy Medication Errors

This Six Sigma project is currently underway at a prominent healthcare center in New Jersey. The main objectives of the project include reduction of errors in chemotherapy administration, improvement in documentation, reduction of waste, improvement in patient satisfaction and improvement in the turnover of patients receiving chemotherapy treatment.

The project is currently 6 Sigma DMAIC process (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). The project may still be far from completion, but positive results have already started to pour in, evident from the improvements made in patient satisfaction and patient turnover.

Progress on the error reduction front is relatively slow, but the healthcare professionals involved are optimistic about the developments and are quite certain to achieve significant results in a month or two.

Project For Reducing Bloodstream Infections (Bsis)

This 6 Sigma project is almost in its final stages and the positive results achieved so far, vouch for the applicability and effectiveness of 6 Sigma in the healthcare sector. The main objective of this project was to make improvements in the existing healthcare delivery systems so as to meet the prescribed BSIs standards.

The project was executed with the support of the healthcare staff, responsible for developing many innovative solutions such as the "Infection Containment Kit", development of standard operating procedures, and creation of control charts for improved infection monitoring. These solutions were quite useful because they enabled the healthcare center to achieve the desired results such as significant reductions in BSIs, increase in ICU capacity, and savings of over $400,000 per year.

All these benefits prove the point that Six Sigma is quite effective when it comes to making process improvements in the healthcare sector.
Six Sigma in the healthcare center may still be in its infancy, but considering the positive results that are being reported by healthcare centers and the optimism displayed by healthcare professionals, it can be said that in the years to come, 6 Sigma will no longer be in the trial mode and will instead become a necessity in the healthcare industry.

That is good news for all the stakeholders, especially patients' for whom even a small clinical error can have fatal consequences.
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 lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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