The wonders of Lean Six Sigma;

Heidi Reinpold
May 7 · 7 min read

How can it be beneficial in a Healthcare Setting

Lean Six Sigma In Health Care

With the lives in the hands of Healthcare providers and their entities, it is crucial that everything is done just right as to not hinder the safety of customers, but also the safety and protection of providers and their employees. What is Lean Six Sigma and how can it be implemented in the Healthcare environment? Let’s look at the process and concepts, then see how we can apply it to our Healthcare System.

So, What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is not a new concept. This has been a way of thinking and processing new ideas and approaches to production since the beginning of the 20th century with Henry Ford and his implementation of removing unnecessary processes from his assembly line. Toyota is a company known to praise Ford for his processes and modeled their lines after his concepts, which helped them produce great product, efficiently. Being efficient by streamlining processes, avoiding waste, boosting moral in the work place and having happy customers are all part of this “New” way of running a successful business.

Henry Ford and the start of Lean Six Sigma

The concepts of Lean Sigma Six which Henry Ford implemented helped his product get produced quicker with better quality and less waste than what may have occurred in the past. Ford Standardized his processes so all the workers were on the same page; products were made the same way as it was the most efficient way to complete the job. Any other tasks that did not fall in the approval of Ford’s attempt at the best way to produce product were thrown out. Ford paid his employees High Wages in order to increase moral and commitment to the company; people work better, quicker and are happier when they are satisfied with their place of employment. Wasted Materials were not thrown out; these materials were found other uses, which benefited not only company itself but the community as well. Product Control was managed; having too much back stock can be a waste of product and space if there is not the demand at the time; being able to use what is available and not carry so much product as back up is good for the company as they do not have to used initial spending and the risk of loss is lowered. Finally. Customer Service is a major part of Lean Six Sigma as you cannot have a company and sell product or service without your customers, correct? Making sure the customers are satisfied is top priority. They are the ones that will sell your business for you through recommendations and return for more purchases.

There are 5 Principles of Lean Six Sigma; DMAIC

There are 5 Principles of Lean Six Sigma that sets a guideline for those wanting to apply this approach to their workplace. Having this tool available helps those new to the idea really dig into their business and pull out what is not serving their business as it should be.

- Define: Define the problem that can be improved.

- Measure: Find a way to measure the defined problem by collecting data, establish a baseline, and compare.

-Analyze: Use resources to analyze the data received from the measured problem and find causes of any problem at hand.

-Improve: Form solutions for the problem; identify, test and implement solutions.

-Control: Standardize the solution as road map for the process, point out individuals to look over process and make sure it is being executed properly.

Waste is a BIG DEAL in Lean Six Sigma

When running an efficient business, waste is something that needs to be stopped in its tracks and rid of as it does not serve Lean Six Sigma well. As with any other approach when improving a business, there is a little trick to help with finding this waste, it’s called DOWNTIME.

-D Defects

-O Overproduction

-W Waiting

-N Not Utilizing Talent

-T Transportation

-I Inventory Excess

-M Motion Waste

-E Excess Processing

Being able to take a hard look at all these factors that make up a business and decrease the amount of time wasted in relation to these will help fill in gaps that are not needed in running a business efficiently and successfully. There is always something that can be streamlined to help with the quality and efficiency of the business.

Now, What about Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare

Lean Six Sigma can be applied to the Healthcare setting in a couple different ways. The Healthcare setting consists of not only Doctors taking care of patients, but Nurses, Medication Aids, Food Service, Emergency Services, Insurance, Patient Accounts, Legal and Financial Departments, and more. Taking the initiative to apply a structured approach to an establishment as big as this will help not only those who are running the separate departments, and their patients, but the employees and their families, the patient’s families, and the community in as a whole.

The most recent noted Lean Six Sigma integration that has taken place in the Healthcare establishment that can be used for an example is the implementation of the Electronic Medical Record, or EMR. EMR is an electronic based system that records health related information of an individual which can be used to benefit the quality of care given to the patient as well as efficiently help the provider create, gather and share info as needed without confusion or drag time. This system took paperwork out of the equation of visits and processing, eliminated mistakes that could be made by handwriting or filing issues (to name a few) and provided time management with easy information search and notation.

Lean Six Sigma can be used with medical care equipment and supplies with establishing a system within the entity by reducing unnecessary supplies (medicine for example) which can be susceptible to mix up, producing a wrong prescription, and can reduce time by not having so much stock to look over, ensuring quality service to the patient.

Other examples: the art of being proactive when making food, using product that can be made into multiple dishes rather than specialty dishes and throwing out excess; calling patients for contact and then noting account rather than sending paper work- this limits the need for paper and having improves quality by having 1st person contact with patients; training an employee to handle an extra step that may be needed in the patient’s room by another employee — this reduces contact time with patient who may need rest which increases their quality of well being (think patients who need peace and quiet rather than commotion and traffic; patients needing constant care not considered in this scenario), and utilizes the employee who is willing to take on the responsibility (increasing employee moral).

Being on top of care, health issues, cleaning, prompt service, quality service and feedback from patients can help with many different situations. These can include getting patients out of the hospital sooner, whether it a stay or an appointment (as we all know, the dreaded wait for the Doctor can be longer than the actual appointment itself), reduce waste of toxic supply which is beneficial for the community, the environment, paperwork (which also helps the environment), food waste and so much more.

Final Note of Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare

The possibilities are endless when applying Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare. Much of the systems were put together by people who were trying to establish a system before the luxuries we have of today. The systems of the past still work, but with society improving in technology as it is, using this technology to our advantage will help out Healthcare system thrive. Healthcare is a major part of who we are today; everyone is affected by this system and needs to utilize it normally. Implementing the Lean Six Sigma way of thinking into our Healthcare is beneficial as it will create a positive outlook towards our health providers (which in the past, has had some negative stigmas attached), improve relationships between providers and other departments of a Healthcare Facility. It will also raise moral throughout the workplace, improve communication between patients, providers and front desk/patient account employees and help increase the health and quality of life throughout communities as well as our nation.

References

The 8 Deadly Lean Wastes — DOWNTIME. (2019, March 15). Retrieved from https://www.processexcellencenetwork.com/business-transformation/articles/the-8-deadly-lean-wastes-downtime

A Brief Introduction To Lean, Six Sigma And Lean Six Sigma. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.greycampus.com/blog/quality-management/a-brief-introduction-to-lean-and-six-sigma-and-lean-six-sigma

De Koning, H., Verver, J., Van den Heuvel, J., Bisgaard, S., & Does, R. (2006). Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 28(2), 4–11. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7034272_Lean_Six_Sigma_in_Healthcare

Electronic Medical Record Systems. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://healthit.ahrq.gov/key-topics/electronic-medical-record-systems

Henry Ford and the Roots of Lean Manufacturing. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sixsigmadaily.com/henry-ford-lean-manufacturing/

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