Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare

Kelly Self
3 min readMay 2, 2020

A Blog by Kelly Self / HHP 630 / FHSU / Spring 2020

Does It Work?

While there is a notion that Lean Six Sigma (Lean Six) is no longer relevant in today’s industry, its methodologies are highly important in healthcare because they reduce flaws that can result in medical errors. Lean Six can improve patient safety by eliminating life-threatening errors and increase processing efficiency.

Improvements

Rick Tucci with iSixSigma, an online “go-to Lean and Six Sigma resource for essential information and how-to knowledge” asserts that Lean Six Sigma can advance sizeable improvements in patient care and cost reduction. And there is potential for Lean Six to do it faster than other methods, Tucci says. Healthcare organizations are characteristically complex with each group that is involved going after their own wants and needs. Physicians, nurses, administrators, regulation entities (think CMS or FDA) and customer advocacy groups all want better quality. The issue is that these groups seldom subscribe to the same solutions on how best to change.

Using Lean Six Sigma can improve patient safety by eliminating life-threatening errors and increase process efficiency. As described by ASQ, a global organization that provides professional training, certifications, and knowledge to members globally, Lean Six Sigma focuses on eliminating defects. It uses “Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC)- a five-step approach to process improvement”. This focuses on patient experience. By putting Lean Six Sigma into practice, ASQ has reported that the North Mississippi Medical Center was able to reduce the prescription instruction errors in discharge papers by 50%.

Time and Money

Resource utilization can be maximized which will result in less waste of time and money. Lean Six can free up the capacity to meet the new demand. As stated by ASQ, certification in Lean Six helps organizations “gain increased productivity, gain stakeholder trust and credibility and reduce employee turnover and training costs”. It can also “drive an organizations bottom-line results by reducing variation, waste, and cycle time, while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage”.

But what about…

There is a segment of naysayers that hold the contention that Lean Six Sigma is no longer relevant in today’s industry. According to Arvind Rongala, Director at Invensis Learning, some say that Lean Six is nothing more than statistics and advanced mathematics. Lean Six is still relevant in any industry. It is a series of instruments and procedures that are fastidiously designed to help strengthen processes inside the organization. Everything is not statistics and advanced mathematics in Lean Six, and an organization can easily implement some of the basic principles and tools to start with.

Lean Six IS the way to success

Lean Six Sigma is more than the tools. It is a method used by management to direct administrators and how they can lead their employees. It is a continuous campaign in which you must bar yourself against turning back to old methods. Manager and employee both must drive for increased growth and development and mold the circumstances to where individuals want to continuously advance. Everyone must be committed and engaged to cooperate in the identification and application of improvement. That is how Lean Six can and will produce durable success in Healthcare.

Sources:

All photos used courtesy of https://www.freeimages.com/

http://asq.org/healthcaresixsigma/lean-six-sigma.html

https://www.invensislearning.com/blog/top-10-reasons-why-organizations-do-not-use-lean-six-sigma/

https://www.isixsigma.com/industries/healthcare/six-sigmawithout-pain-healthcare/

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