Six Sigma Healthcare

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Six Sigma Healthcare

Six Sigma Healthcare is a quality improvement methodology that also improves patient and stakeholder satisfaction.

Six Sigma Healthcare delivery means helping improve patient outcomes while driving down the cost of patient care. Doing so empowers healthcare providers to become more productive. Now, more than ever, the healthcare industry needs to embrace the economic value proposition of improving productivity. For the past 20 years, the industry has experienced negative productivity growth. The economic consequences of this type of industry performance are stunning.

Six Sigma Healthcare is a quality improvement methodology that encourages perfection in the delivery of healthcare services. From an operational perspective, lean six sigma’s value proposition is to improve productivity.

Improving quality creates a chain reaction. When a provider organization improves quality, their costs go down. Their costs go down to the tune of 20% to 40% of total operating expenses. The decrease occurs because the costs of wasted effort reworking problems, correcting medical errors, reassuring dissatisfied patients, and reconciling invoices are eliminated. As these costs go down, productivity naturally improves. Productivity improves because of the increased use of human capital, technology and working capital in producing favourable patient outcomes. Better patient outcomes and the termination of the hidden factory leads to greater profit margins and enhanced economic value. The additional economic value funds growth and innovation, which lead to improved healthcare quality and high value jobs.

Simply put, the drive for better quality of healthcare outcomes and the drive for increased productivity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, poor quality is not only poor for healthcare outcomes but also creates a drag on productivity.

With half a dozen years of experience, this may be a good time for the healthcare industry to revisit the question “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 within the healthcare environment, what kind of results have materialized, which factors might have contributed to the level of success they have seen, and what lies ahead for the industry.

Healthcare sector can learn a good deal from industries that are working toward the Six Sigma goal. Let’s try it in healthcare and see how close we can get.

Six Sigma Healthcare methodologies have taken hold in a number of early adopter hospitals and health systems. With cost, quality and regulatory pressures mounting within the healthcare industry, Six Sigma is drawing increased attention from other hospitals and healthcare systems seeking a better approach to achieving long-term results.

Six Sigma Healthcare has been used to address many of the most common challenges facing healthcare, including patient safety, technology optimization, market growth, resource utilization, length of stay and throughput. In some cases, it has been used to focus on a specific department or process, and in other cases it has been implemented on an enterprise-wide basis to achieve a cultural transformation.

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