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Carolyn Pexton

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Addressing Six Sigma Concerns From The Skeptics

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary states, “skepticism implies an unwillingness to believe without conclusive evidence.” Sometimes a little skepticism – or at least curiosity – can be a healthy thing. For instance, one should probably not begin taking a new medication without asking a few pertinent questions such as, “What are the side effects,” “How will this interact…

Using Six Sigma to Improve Clinical Quality and Outcomes

Appropriately implemented, Six Sigma clearly produces benefits in terms of better operational efficiency, cost effectiveness and higher process quality. Perhaps less obvious – and until recently less documented – is the impact it can make in clinical areas such as infection control and medication delivery. Clinicians are often receptive to Six Sigma given its familiar scientific and…

Framing the Need to Improve Health Care Using Six Sigma

Before exploring the various ways Six Sigma is currently being used, we should set the stage and understand the challenging environment where this methodology is being put to the test, a relatively small, but growing segment of the healthcare industry. Healthcare today is a vast web of complexity and contradiction. It offers astounding advances in…

Surmounting Staff Scheduling at Valley Baptist Health System

Located in Harlingen, Texas, Valley Baptist Health System is a full-service, not-for-profit community health network ably serving the population of south Texas and beyond. The system is comprised of multiple organizations including Valley Baptist Medical Center, a 611-bed acute care hospital providing the number one rated orthopedics service in Texas, a state of the art…

Issues and Solutions for Today’s Emergency Department

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over the past decade trips to emergency departments (ED) rose 20 percent, while the number of available emergency centers fell by 15 percent. Another study from the American Hospital Association indicated that 62 percent of hospitals feel they are at or over…

Communication Strategies for Six Sigma Initiatives, Part 2

Making the decision to bring Six Sigma into your organization is just the first step on a long journey. Although this approach has proven successful for a variety of industries (including manufacturing, transactional and professional services), the best-laid plans may go awry if the focus is solely on the technical side, without considering the cultural…

Revamping Healthcare Using DMAIC And DFSS

Evidence pointing to the applicability of Six Sigma and related best practices within healthcare has been steadily mounting over the past few years. Primarily based on the implementation of the DMAIC process (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control), we’re seeing an ever-widening array of documented and publicized results… from improving turnaround time for patients to…

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Lean and Six Sigma: Fixing Healthcare a Process at a Time

With many issues facing the U.S. healthcare system the task of “fixing” it seems insurmountable, but the appropriate implementation With so many different issues facing the U.S. healthcare system the task of “fixing” it can seem insurmountable. Every healthcare executive knows the litany of challenges: rising costs, inadequate insurance coverage, capacity constraints, patient safety concerns,…

Using Six Sigma to Reduce Pressure Ulcers at a Hospital

Since 2001, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center (TRMC) in Louisiana has applied Six Sigma and change management methods to a range of clinical and operational issues. One project that clearly aligned with the hospital’s strategic plan was an initiative to reduce nosocomial or hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, because this is one of the key performance metrics indicating…

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The Initial Focus – Strategy or Projects?

Organizations often have a strategy and process improvement program in place, but eventually start seeing signs of waning momentum. The organizations experience a familiar realization that it is difficult to sustain improvements. Organizations including hospitals and health systems have encountered similar challenges. It is not easy to launch a major change initiative in healthcare, and…

Six Sigma Trims Turnover Time for Orthopedic Surgeries

Orthopedic and neurological spine surgery represents a competitive and profitable business for many healthcare organizations. Expanding this particular service line and ensuring efficiency in the operating room (OR) are among the strategic initiatives at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., one of 16 hospitals in the Memorial Hermann system. Surgeons at the hospital…

Improving Patient Charge Capture at Yale-New Haven

It is a common problem. Every year, hospitals lose millions of dollars when items used in the course of a patient’s care somehow slip through the system without ever being charged or reimbursed. At Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, a Six Sigma project team decided to look at the opportunities related to patient charge capture….

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Making an Easier Migration From Film/Paper to a PACS

In an effort to reduce costs, improve patient care, maximize resources and thrive in a highly competitive environment, healthcare providers are moving with increasing speed toward digitization – creating an environment that at some point in the future could become completely filmless, paperless and wireless. One aspect of going digital involves the use of a…

Communication Strategies for Six Sigma Initiatives

Making the decision to bring Six Sigma into an organization is the first step on a long journey. Although this decision has proven successful for a variety of industries (including healthcare), the best-laid plans may go awry if the focus is solely on the technical side, without considering the cultural and communication aspects of the…

Aligning Six Sigma with Organizational Strategies

Demonstrating clear alignment between Six Sigma projects and a healthcare organization’s strategic imperatives, vision or mission has been an elusive exercise for many organizations. Judging from a random sampling of web sites and hospital lobbies, most mission statements represent variations on a theme and relate to common issues such as clinical quality, cost management, service…

Optimizing OR Capacity at The Children’s Hospital

Perioperative services is one of the most challenging and complex environments in healthcare. It is often prone to variability in terms of processes, patient volume and case type. Bottlenecks, delays and problems with patient flow frequently surface in this critical area, impeding the organization’s ability to manage the daily caseload and capacity allocation. To increase…

Perception Versus Reality: Importance of Measurement

At a high level, there is usually agreement on the big issues in any healthcare organization. Through observation and feedback alone, key stakeholders may realize there are problems with excessive wait time in the emergency department, or that the first surgical case of the day rarely starts on time, or that it is taking too…

Overcoming the Barriers to Change in Healthcare System

Research has shown that 95 percent of diets fail over the long term. Oddly enough, various studies show that 60 to 80 percent of major change initiatives also fail. In both cases, it is certainly not for lack of good intentions. For a person who has been on a successful diet, it is frustrating to…

Achieving and Sustaining Improvement in Cardiac Medication

More than 70 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF) and acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The numbers continue to rise as the population ages, and improving the timeliness and quality of cardiovascular care continues to be a critical area of focus for healthcare providers. Some…

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Start Now with 10 Keys to Successful Transformation

There is no need for another survey to confirm what healthcare professionals already know – healthcare delivery is overdue for a major renovation. New management models and strategies must be adopted that will: Enable quick, sustainable results around immediate issues. Equip teams with solid problem-solving skills and proven best practices. Empower the organization with a…

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Removing the Bottlenecks, Improving Flow in Radiology

Moving patients efficiently through the system can become a challenge for hospitals and imaging centers, especially as demand increases. This was the case for the radiology department at Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida, USA. A growing backlog of appointments – particularly in computed tomography (CT) scans – had begun to impact timely access to services. While…

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Enabling Culture Change in Healthcare with Six Sigma

After embarking on a Six Sigma journey, many organizations soon realize that one of the most significant benefits is also one of the most difficult to quantify. It cannot be measured in terms of “Z” scores or analyzed using a box plot. This benefit is the “people value” (no relation to p-value). It is the…

Healthcare Quality Initiatives: The Role of Leadership

A distinguished panel of healthcare executives recently shared their thoughts on the importance of leaders taking an active and visible role in their organization’s quality initiatives. They also agreed on the need for organizations to develop the right management systems and structures to adequately support their quality efforts, measure outcomes and encourage accountability. Speaking on…

Beyond Tools and Training: Adopting a Systems Approach

Reactions from healthcare professionals to Six Sigma can vary greatly, from “It’s the most reliable approach to process improvement we’ve found,” to “It’s just one of several tools we use to solve problems,” and even “Hate it…not interested…too hard…just another management fad.” Six Sigma is probably not for everyone and it is certainly not a…

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Reducing Admitting Delays by Improving Bed Management

When confronted by concerns of some physicians about frequent lengthy delays that they experienced admitting patients, Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital in Houston, Texas, assembled a cross-functional Six Sigma team to identify and address any underlying issues that might be causing the delays. The business case for pursuing the project was clear. Improving bed management and…

Attention Six Sigma, You’’re Wanted in Surgery

The demand for surgical services is growing rapidly, especially with ambulatory and cosmetic procedures. During the last decade, the volume of ambulatory surgery in U.S. hospitals increased by 2.9 million procedures, according to data from the American Hospital Association. As one of the busiest areas in a hospital, perioperative services often contribute 40 percent or…

Applying Six Sigma to Improve Diagnostic Imaging

Since the discovery of X-rays in 1895, the field of diagnostic imaging has undergone dramatic changes. Within a year after its introduction, the application of X-rays to diagnosis and therapy had already become an established part of medicine. The decades to follow produced a steadily increasing stream of innovation – including the advent of nuclear…

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Measuring Six Sigma Results in the Healthcare Industry

With half a dozen years of experience, this may be a good time for the healthcare industry to revisit the question which titled a frequently cited article published in 1998, “Is Health Care Ready for Six Sigma?” The question may best be answered by examining how Six Sigma and related improvement methods have been deployed…

Awards Help Set Standards for Healthcare Excellence

A growing number of healthcare organizations are striving to differentiate themselves by seeking awards and recognition. Hospitals vie for coveted positions on lists of top hospitals from U.S. News and World Report, Modern Healthcare, Solucient and others. Numerous state, regional and national awards are given each year for excellence in specific service lines, patient safety,…

Streamlining Diagnostic Testing at Northwestern Memorial

The diagnostic testing center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago is an outpatient laboratory that is kept perennially busy serving the needs of the community. Thousands of walk-in patients are seen each year, primarily for blood tests (phlebotomy) and electrocardiograms (EKGs). Although Northwestern receives acclaim for its patient care, some complaints had begun to surface…

Increasing Cath Lab Capacity Through Six Sigma

Healthcare organizations currently implementing Six Sigma are finding no shortage of opportunities for applying this approach – and many are reaping substantial benefits in terms of cost, quality and productivity. One area increasingly targeted in recent years has been the cardiac catheterization lab, which is generally a high-volume, challenging and complex environment within any healthcare facility….

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Strategies for Improving Patient Safety in the Hospital

The fact that patients are not entirely safe in a hospital is not breaking news. Errors in healthcare delivery were occurring long before the 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine exposed significant gaps in the healthcare system in the United States. The institute’s report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, found…

Ideas for Achieving Higher Reliability in Healthcare

As startling as the 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine was – estimating that medical errors may cause 98,000 deaths annually – a new national study indicates the problem may actually be much worse. According to the report released in July by HealthGrades, a Denver-based healthcare ranking group, the number of hospital patients who…

Integrating Six Sigma with Lean and Work-out in Healthcare

Since its introduction nearly two decades ago, Six Sigma has been embraced by many organizations and industries involved in manufacturing and transactional services as a cost-effective way to improve quality and productivity. As a method to eliminate variation and defects, Six Sigma makes use of a structured approach and statistical tools to find the root…

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Profile in Six Sigma Leadership: James G. Springfield

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. James G. Springfield President and CEO Valley Baptist Health System Harlingen, Texas Those who know…