Culture Shift

Most healthcare organizations have experienced some type of quality improvement program in the past. Unfortunately, many of these programs are implemented with little thought, planning, or expectations for success. These programs have created cynicism among many organizational leaders, which have caused these leaders to dispute the value of other quality initiatives.

However, it is not disputed that the environment of healthcare must be changed in order to overcome competitive barriers. The competitive barriers that healthcare continues to face on a daily basis are costs, customer focus, quality, and errors. Of these barriers, costs are the most controllable and the most adversely impacted by poor service and poor work processes. It is estimated that medical errors account for billions of dollars in lost revenue per year. Nearly all of these errors are due to flaws in the process.

Unfortunately, many in the healthcare field believe that errors committed by healthcare workers are a normal occurrence due to the unavoidable complexity of the human anatomy. Further, it is ubiquitous for an individual or a team to customize their job duties in an effort to perform at a peak level. Application of Lean Six Sigma to healthcare requires all divisions of a healthcare organization to set standards that all must follow. The results are witnessed in annual savings in cost of goods or services provided. Hence, patient care costs should also diminish from the implementation of the Lean Six Sigma standards.

Comments 5

  1. John

    Nice article. But can you put out more detail on this issue. And also how about different cultures in different countries?

  2. Taylor

    Are there no "private" hospitals that can be started with a "new way" of doing things, where a process and best practice mentality dominates the workforce? Only doctors, residents, nurses and orderlies are hired that agree to standardizing their work practices, rather than customizing based on what everyone thinks is "ideal" or "better"? Can no one come up with a better mouse-trap for healthcare?

  3. Joanne

    I am currently leading a culture change programme in one of Scotland, UK’s NHS Health Board areas. We have developed a Lean Six Sigma programme within the organisation. The opportunities that Lean and Six Sigma offer to the huge complexities of successfully applying continuous improvement in the health service are exciting and the enthusiasm of front-line staff that are being introduced to these tools and techniques is very encouraging. The Health service is hugely complex and getting buy-in from all the personnel, who come from a variety of backgrounds (cultural, educational, professional etc) to these quality initiatives requires a multi-layered approach. A hugely important aspect is supporting the staff through the changes that you are trying to introduce. The understanding and use of tools is one thing, but the discipline of project management in the organisation is also important, as is coaching and mentoring and general support to people implementing and affecting the changes being introduced. People working in the Health Service are very committed but are also under a lot of pressure and they need to be confident that expending the extra effort that the changes will be supported and encouraged and their efforts will be rewarded.

  4. WE

    At some hospitals in the Netherlands we started bottom-up by beginning with proces modelling at each department.

Leave a Reply