Six Sigma leaders from three of Americas premier healthcare institutions recently shared their experiences with iSixSigma Magazine. They also offered advice for hospitals completing Six Sigma deployments of their own.
In June, an iSixSigma reporter visited Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle to see how the the hospitals process improvement program is helping to shape the patient experience.
A Six Sigma cardiac medication project was successful in coordinating high-quality care, incorporating advanced technologies, and adopting best practice standards.
All healthcare stakeholders, from the board on down, want to find ways to make their organizations perform better. Having tried and failed to find the holy grail within their own industry, providers are now looking beyond the health care field to other industries for best practices in managing both cost and quality.
Regardless of the red flags skeptics attempt to raise, Six Sigma is not a cult or a seventh-grade science project. Even the most ardent Six Sigma fans should view questions from skeptics as a chance to present evidence supporting the use of Six Sigma and change management techniques in healthcare. Six Sigma makes it easier for people to do the right thing by identifying and removing the barriers to excellence.
Despite advances in imaging technologies, the benefits may not be fully realized if process problems, patient backlogs or other concerns disrupt imaging operations.
Six Sigma alone may not be heralded as the savior of healthcare delivery, but its judicious application along clinical lines, combined with the best treatment, technology and expertise available, will certainly improve care for the patient and diminish uncertainty for caregivers.
With the demand for surgical services growing rapidly, especially with ambulatory and cosmetic procedures, hospitals are finding that Six Sigma is a useful tool.
Using Six Sigma or some other improvement program is only part of a winning strategy. Prevailing over the issues that challenge healthcare requires a combination of committed leadership, unbridled innovation and a comprehensive systems approach.
The process analytical technology (PAT) approach encourages manufacturers to re-think their systems strategy both for infrastructure and applications integration. Lean Six Sigma provides a bevy of tools to make this possible.
It is time to refute some of the claims about the power of bar codes to deliver gains in patient safety. And, at the same time, reinforce Lean and Six Sigma as significant tools in improving processes that actually can ensure patient safety.
Pharmaceutical companies have not broadly recognized how process improvement methods can be integrated with clinical research practices. Using Six Sigma can lead to breakthrough improvement of cycle time and error reduction in clinical trials.
Covidien's Operational Excellence competition recognizes employee efforts to accelerate improvements and drive down costs.
In this case study, one large insurance company executed a Lean Six Sigma project to cut operational costs for property and casualty (P&C) insurance claims and improve customer satisfaction.
The accounts payable department of a healthcare system completed a Six Sigma project to address the high volume of invoices being processed and to develop a system for monitoring how well new processing-time standards are being met.
Having successfully improved customer satisfaction in its diagnostic clinics, a hospital addresses the next problem area delays in receiving lab test results for patients in the intensive care unit.
The decision to adopt Six Sigma has been successful in many industries including healthcare. However, the best plans may go awry if the focus is just on the technical side, without considering cultural and communication aspects of the initiative.
Multi-million dollar savings are generated by 'beating heart' or 'off-pump' coronary artery bypass outcomes.
A chain of medical diagnostic clinics was developed from the ground up. After two years of hectic expansion marked by acquisitions and setting up green field clinics across a number of cities, the chain wanted to improve the turnaround time of patients and customer service.
Almost all organizations identify customer satisfaction as an area for improvement and as key to business success. In this installment of a three-part case study in creating customer delight, a medical diagnostic center tackles patient problems identified through observation and feedback.
In the final installment of this three-part case study, a medical diagnostic clinic reduces the turnaround time of lab reports, improving cycle time for 90 percent of blood tests and increasing customer satisfaction.
Six Sigma and related methodologies are integral part of the framework for managing change and improving processes at Decatur Memorial Hospital. Results are seen in higher patient and staff satisfaction, greater efficiency and better service quality.
Last Friday I taught a Lean Leadership class for my healthcare organization. The participants included all levels of support staff, physicians, nurses, anddepartment leaders. They grasped the concepts easily, and we had a lot of fun with the simulation exercise….
A biomedical equipment provider used Six Sigma to better detect potential errors and prevent them from occurring.
With planning, guidance, innovation and patience, the Health Care Corporation of St. John's in Newfoundland, Canada, was able to make a rapid transition in diagnostic imaging from film to picture archiving and communications systems (PACS).
The success of any change is enhanced by building a culture of alignment, accountability and acceptance. This is evident in the implementation and deployment of Six Sigma at Virtua Health, a comprehensive healthcare system consisting of four hospitals and headquartered in Marlton, NJ, USA.
A new book, Six Sigma Beyond the Factory Floor, examines process improvement in transactional services, including the application of Six Sigma within healthcare, in terms of overall deployment and individual projects.
Improving U.S. healthcare requires a concentrated effort by physicians. The need is to break down traditional boundaries between physicians, administrators and clinicians, and work together to design safer, more effective and efficient systems.
Healthcare today is a vast web of complexity and contradiction. It offers astounding advances in technology and treatment, but is overburdened by inefficiencies, errors, resource constraints and other issues that threaten the accessibility and safety of patient care. Six Sigma can make a difference where other methodologies have failed to deliver results.
Support services staff at Heartland Health used Lean Six Sigma to devise a system to better track assets so that caregivers would have more time with patients.
I attended a review session for the ASQ certification exam. The subject of physicians came up when we were discussing identification of customers in healthcare.
Case Study: The healthcare provider wanted to see if evidence based medicine, using rigorous Six Sigma statistical methods, could or would promote a more standardized formulary.
When a Houston hospital found it had a 12 percent incidence of pressure ulcers – exceeding the 7 percent national average – it put a team in place and launched a project to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers by…
I have spent the last couple of months banging my head against a wall trying to figure out why one group of employees at one of my implementations just cant align with a Lean way of life. Each time we…
There is general consensus that healthcare is not as safe and reliable as it should be. Professionals are seeking high reliability in healthcare.
As hospitals consolidate resources regionally, a big challenge takes shape: handling the information necessary to manage cash flow efficiently.
North Shore University Hospital initiated a Six Sigma project aimed at improving the patient experience by reducing wait times in its Emergency Department.
Excessive waiting and poor customer service at a hospital's labor and delivery triage area had existed for years. But a Six Sigma process improvement project team attacked the problem systematically and began resolving it in a matter of months.
Six Sigma practitioners, because of their knowledge of statistical analysis and their belief in continuous improvement, are at a particular advantage for using this health data to make positive life changes.
A Six Sigma team at the Hurley Medical Centers Family Ambulatory Health Center worked to better coordinate patient flow without decreasing time with physicians.
To address the increasing cost of implantables in the catheterization lab, a cross-function Six Sigma team was assembled at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital and charged with learning the business and appropriately decreasing high costs.
One focal area increasingly targeted for performance improvement in healthcare organizations has been the cardiac cath lab.
As one of three Six Sigma Master Black Belts at Commonwealth Health Corporation (CHC) in Kentucky, Nick Nauman mentors 35 Green Belts. At the time of this interview, CHC's team had a total of approximately 180 completed or ongoing Six Sigma projects throughout the institution, focused on a range of issues involving both operational and clinical improvement.
I’ve had a lot pf people asking me about healthcare lately. As in, “Now that big corporations and the automotive companiesare reeling, with the stimulus coming and promises of healthcare reform, isn’t it a great time to move out of…
Former ThedaCare CEO and president Dr. John Toussaint thinks lean can cure healthcare. He's prescribing Lean to change the culture in healthcare - from shame and blame to using data to make decisions.
Some hospitals are finding new ways to overcome the emergency department challenges and create safer, more efficient environments. A growing number of hospitals are taking steps to identify and remove bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the system. As a result, they're seeing a positive impact on patients, staff, and the bottom line.
Here's a list of things you should NEVER say when discussing Lean Six Sigma with healthcare providers.
This article documents a Six Sigma project to reduce the time between when a discharge order is written for a patient and when that hospital bed becomes available again.
Thibodaux Regional Medical Center successfully used LSS initiatives to improve their operating rooms. Delays were common in the perioperative environment and turnover times between surgical cases impacted surgeon satisfaction and services available.
To reduce costs, improve patient care, maximize resources and thrive in a competitive environment, healthcare providers are moving toward digitization - that includes the use of a picture archiving and communications system for diagnostic imaging.
McKesson is the largest pharmaceuticals distributor in the United States. While they do not manufacture drugs or supply healthcare services, they are the leading provider of supply, information, and care management products to the entire healthcare industry.
In 1998 an oft-cited article asked, "Is Health Care Ready for Six Sigma?" After a half-dozen years of Six Sigma experience since, it is clear that the healthcare industry has answered the question. Healthcare was ready for Six Sigma.
This case study is an example of a Six Sigma breakthrough improvement in a Medical Transcription company in India.
Recent news from Lean Six Sigma use in healthcare includes the release of a new book detailing UCLA Health Systems path to operational excellence and the appointment of a Black Belt to a leadership role within a health insurance organization.
The outpatient imaging center decided to use the Six Sigma toolkit to determine the root causes for current turnaround times.
A patient management scorecard presents a comprehensive framework that helps healthcare managers to define strategies, track performance and provide information to show whether their institution is performing well in terms of its mission. By Suresh Hemamalini and Raj Mithun A…
Are hospital patient collections out of control, or is the accounts receivable process working properly? Test your knowledge on this iSixSigma Healthcare patient puzzle. Ms. Collette DBills, patient accounting, has gathered data related to accounts receivable, entering it to an…
Quality practices in the pharmaceuticals industry today are what they were in other industries 15 to 20 years ago. It is time to catch up. And Six Sigma is just the opportunity for operations and quality professionals to modernize quality practices.
What makes some physicians so difficult to convince of the need for change? I’m talking aboutphysicians who are extremely unhappy with the current state. They complain to anyone who will listen. They threaten to take their patient volume elsewhere. They…
James G. Springfield, president and CEO of Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen, Texas (USA), shares his thoughts on the concerns of healthcare administrators today and his vision of healthcare’s future. His views offer a profile in Six Sigma leadership….
Bob Hagemann, CFO and VP of Quest Diagnostics, recently spoke about the company at the Wachovia Healthcare Conference. During the presentation he touched on Six Sigma. Even after seven years pursuing Six Sigma, Quest Diagnostics is still expanding their deployment….
Because hospital noise impacts patient recovery, hospitals must be quiet and calm. Hospitals must identify noise factors and discern which sources of noise are controllable. They can then use Six Sigma tools to measure, monitor and reduce noise. By S….
Causes of admitting delays are addressed to meet a hospital's goal to be where employees want to work, patients want to receive care and physicians want to practice.
To accommodate growth in surgical service without adding resources, a Six Sigma team at Deaconess Hospital takes aim at reducing the number of same day surgical cancellations.
In 2000, Broward Health’s Environment of Care (EoC) Key Group, the organization’s corporate-level safety committee, challenged the healthcare system to reduce contaminated needle sticks. The effort followed the Six Sigma DMAIC roadmap.
A hospital's Specials Department project improved start times, increased throughput, implemented control mechanisms for continuous improvement and more.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital embarked on an initiative to improve throughput in its three cardiac cath labs.
At Deaconess Health System a Six Sigma team undertakes a door-to-inflation project to improve the throughput process for AMI patients.
Evidence pointing to the applicability of Six Sigma and related best practices within healthcare has been steadily mounting over the past few years. Evidence pointing to the applicability of Six Sigma and related best practices within healthcare has been steadily…
A radiology department faced challenges with workflow and patient flow. After an assessment of the department that identified opportunities for improvement, the team began to chart a prudent course for the future with the help of a roadmap. By Robert…
How many healthcare processes have you measured that are2.0 Zst or higher at the start of the project? I’ve never had one of these – most of mine have started at below 1.0 or in the negative Sigma range. In…
The articleSix Sigma, the Baxter Wayat PharmaManufacturing.comfeatures an interview with Allen Harmon, the director of operations at Baxters Biologics facility in Hayward, California. The question/answer session reveals details on how this Baxter facility is using Six Sigma and Lean in…
Cardinal Health has been busy with Lean Six Sigma. Their second quarter earnings release highlighted their progress to date: Initiating more than 100 operational excellence projects, bringing the total number of ongoing projects to 200. The company is on-track to…
At the Bank of America, Health Care Conference 2006 in May, Express Scripts gave a presentation that included a few slidesabout their Lean Six Sigma program. Their value proposition: To reduce pharmacy costs, without compromising health outcomes, while maximizing patient…
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) began their Six Sigma initiative in 2003. Today they are ranked 7th in U.S. News & World Reports Best Hospitals Honor Roll. Before implementing Six Sigma they were ranked 14th. Ed Craven, Director of Innovation Strategy at…
Quest Diagnostics are early pioneers of Six Sigma in the healthcare industry, implementing the methodology in May, 2000. Since then they have supplemented the program with a healthy dose of Lean and DFSS. Their progress to date is well documented…
Many hospitals are embarking on a cultural change using Six Sigma concepts and principles to catapult themselves into a higher dimension of quality.
Managing and communicating with employees from one end of the hospital to the other requires skill and a prescription for making improvements. Employees want a coach and they want to own the process, like Six Sigma, for creating change. By…
The well-regarded nuclear medicine department located in the Ospedale Santa Croce e Carle profits from a Six Sigma continuous improvement project.
The Healthcare Sector includes the following Fortune 1000 industries: Medical Products & Equipment, Pharmacy and Other Services, Healthcare-Medical Facilities, and Wholesalers-Healthcare. The Healthcare-Insurance industry is included in the Insurance Industry List. Fortune 1000 Healthcare Companies practicing Six Sigma: Bausch &…
Blood Systems Laboratories, a division of Blood Systems, is the second largest blood testing company in the United States (second only to the Red Cross). They launched a Six Sigma program early in 2004. The Blood Systems 2005 Annual Report…
Last Week, Ben Worthen, of The Wall Street Journal, interviewed Randall Spratt, chief information officer at McKesson Corp. McKesson was one of the pioneer healthcare companies to useSix Sigma, starting in1999 and still goingstrong today. In the interview Spratt talked…
A Six Sigma project was assembled when surgeons at a Houston hospital expressed dissatisfaction with the length of time required to prepare the OR between cases.
What is clear is that Six Sigma can drive bigger improvements in patient care and cost reduction, and potentially, do it faster. In the handful of hospitals that have successfully implemented Six Sigma, the results are impressive. Hard financial savings…
Six Sigma is not for the faint-hearted. It is a challenging strategy to master and execute in for-profit businesses, but even more difficult in the healthcare industry with constraints such as high barriers between the different professional groups, the lack…
Patients who fail to show up for their exams interrupt the scheduling process and disrupt the delivery system. Healthcare facilities must control no-shows to realize process efficiencies and minimize missed revenue opportunities. By David Yarbro When scheduled patients fail to…
Director of Quality Outcomes Nidia Williams explains how the deployment in this three-hospital organization has evolved in the past two years.
In this Six Sigma case study, a medical center tackles delays in its surgical schedule by focusing on the first case of the day.
Measurable improvements in radiology added up to greater efficiency and better quality. In this study, staffing was reduced by 14 full-time equivalents, entirely through attrition; identification errors were reduced through bar coding, and processes were improved. A higher sigma indicates…
The healthcare industry is behind other high-risk industries in ensuring basic safety and valuable lessons can be learned from those who are achieving industry excellence.
Results were dramatic when Northwestern Memorial Hospital applied Six Sigma to long wait times in its diagnostic testing center.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Research Network and the American College of Physicians released a study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Physicians (JABFM) in September showing how including both physicians and non-physicians on process improvement teams can help better facilitate change management, according to an article by David Mitchell of AAFP News Now.
Six Sigma at Valley Baptist Health System has begun to foster a culture that embraces the voice of the customer, breaks down barriers to change and raises performance expectations.
This success story from the Lean deployment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America shows how front-line workers can lead improvement efforts
These are four examples where Six Sigma can impact in clinical areas such as infection control and medication delivery.
A medical center used Six Sigma to reduce nosocomial pressure ulcers by 60 percent, improving the patient care and resulting in an annual cost avoidance of $300,000.
The mysteries of CPT coding errors in the pulmonary medicine department at University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center were solved by a Six Sigma Black Belt detective who looked for hard evidence of what went wrong and why. Were coding errors correlated with the time of day, day of the week, or workload? Was something amiss in the physician/coder interaction that produced the code? Were errors related to some fundamental misunderstanding of a specific type of code that caused consistent overcoding or undercoding? This case study examines how the DMAIC process helped solve the problems.
This article provides an example of how an operational department (like a cardiac catheterization lab) can be transformed from a low sigma level to a higher sigma level, and what that would mean to the overall organization. Patient satisfaction, physician…
I was driving to pick up my daughter from school yesterday when a story on National Public Radio (NPR) caught my attention. I only heard the end of the segment on the radio, but from what I could tell Medicare…