Because of this, the healthcare industry (hospitals, medical device manufacturers, large medical practices, etc.) have recognized the need for process improvement to reduce the frequency of adverse patient outcomes resulting from process shortcomings.
Many of these organizations have begun to embrace the use of Lean Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma allows a service provider to proactively reduce, or in some cases, eliminate, the potential for a mistake or error, opposed to solely relying on redundant checks to try to inspect in quality. It also allows organizations to reduce the waste (non-value-added) activity in their processes to not only lower costs, but to allow a greater focus on the value-added steps associated with caring for patients. Thus, Lean Six Sigma enables improvements in quality, productivity and customer satisfaction. It also enables improvements in employee satisfaction by reducing non-value-added activity and time.
The challenge, for most healthcare organizations, is that Lean Six Sigma is viewed by many as a manufacturing program and that is requires standardization of processes that inherently need to be flexible and allow for a human element. If implemented properly, this is just not true. The key is to ensure that Lean Six Sigma is employed on the right processes with the desire of reducing non-value-added time and non-value-added work, so that healthcare professionals can focus on the value-added work that they do. For example, how do we reduce the time that needs to be spent on billing? No one in healthcare would object to that. An actual example of how Lean Six Sigma helps reduce problems and waste comes from a hospital and its operating rooms. Each surgeon has specific needs and preferences in terms of equipment and instruments and how they are located and arranged for surgery. Routinely, the operating room was not set up to the surgeon’s needs. Often this was discovered after surgery had begun, necessitating a rush to remediate in the midst of a (often complex) surgical procedure. Using the tools and methods of Lean Six Sigma, a Green Belt undertook a project to reduce the frequency of this problem from occurring. She was able to reduce the frequency of occurrence by more than 80%, improving quality of outcomes and also enhancing customer satisfaction from both the patient’s and surgeon’s perspective.
In today’s rapidly changing healthcare market, it is imperative that healthcare organizations become both more cost effective and more quality conscious with the goal of ever increasing patient outcomes. Lean Six Sigma offers a roadmap to enabling improvements in productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, and ultimately profitability.
Contact John Yancey or Edythe Abdullah to learn how Lean Six Sigma can help you and your organization.
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