Why Six Sigma is Ideal for The Healthcare Industry
While Six Sigma has proven itself in manufacturing and service industries, some question whether its strengths can be transferred to the healthcare field. That uncertainty has been addressed in recent years as more healthcare organizations have implemented the Six Sigma methodology and reaped its rewards.
Healthcare providers that employ Six Sigma principles have improved service levels, decreased costs, enhanced customer satisfaction and elevated clinical excellence. There are a growing number of real-life examples to prove it.
- Six Sigma Helps Reduce Patient Wait Times
- Six Sigma Helps Reduce Medication Errors
- Six Sigma Helps Tackle Medical Errors
Opportunities in Healthcare for Six Sigma
A field like healthcare, which we all rely on for excellence, needs the process improvement that Six Sigma brings. Six Sigma can be applied to so many areas of healthcare, including:
- Purchasing and Supply Chain
- Clinical Research
- Billing and Coding
- Laboratory Efficiency
- Patient Education
As the healthcare sector seeks to reduce costs while improving the quality of patient care, Six Sigma may very well provide an answer for an industry that requires as few defects as possible.
To help reduce waste and improve quality care, many hospitals and healthcare practices have adopted Six Sigma management tools to help achieve goals. Employing Six Sigma principles in healthcare settings can help eliminate defects and variations in processes, and it can help make procedures more streamlined, less costly and help improve patient care.
In healthcare environments, a defect is defined as a factor that leads to patient dissatisfaction. Examples of defects range from the frustrating kind, such as a long wait to see a doctor, to the serious kind, such as an incorrect diagnosis or treatment.
The Role of Six Sigma in Healthcare
Because patient care is hands-on, the possibility for a variance is larger than in other process-driven industries. Variables may be small and difficult to quantify, but Six Sigma’s data-driven approach can result in measurable improvement.
Six Sigma Requires Five Steps for Quality Improvement
- Define: Who are the patients, and what do they want? What are the capabilities of the process being measured? What are our objectives?
- Measure: What will improvement look like? On what data will our efforts be measured? Metrics used to define performance in a healthcare organization often include service level, service cost, patient satisfaction, and clinical excellence.
- Analyze: Collect data and analyze using proven tools.
- Improve: Implement modifications to improve the process.
- Control: Monitor performance to maintain improvement.
Six Sigma Data and Facts Help Drive Decisions
Six Sigma has been shown to improve patient care by:
- Reducing the number of errors made by physicians, nurses and technicians
- Improving lab turnaround times
- Reducing appointment wait times
- Decreasing steps in the supply chain
- Accelerating reimbursement for insurance claims
- Improving patient outcomes
Examples of Six Sigma Used Successfully in a Healthcare Setting
Patients can access more information on healthcare providers than ever before, and quality of care has been seen as an important factor in deciding which provider patients choose. Healthcare organizations are increasingly regarding patient reviews and perceptions as essential factors for quality improvement, and Six Sigma as the approach to measure and improve these factors.
The Benefits of Six Sigma in Healthcare
By understanding patients’ needs and expectations for quality, healthcare organizations may help deliver better patient care. Six Sigma has been shown to significantly impact healthcare management, operations, and direct patient care, resulting in both cost savings and quality improvement.
Whether the need is to move patients more quickly from the emergency room to a hospital room, or improve turnaround times for laboratory procedures, Six Sigma can help healthcare organizations find ways to maximize resources, eliminate waste and get the results they need to reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction.