Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare Service Delivery
Why should the healthcare industry vigorously pursue the use of Lean Six Sigma? As a business made up of people, products and services, and has a need for financial viability, healthcare faces problems and challenges similar to all organizations. But along with the normal challenges facing any business, in the case of healthcare, there are mounting societal pressures to lower costs, increase service and increase quality. It must move forward yet seems intractably caught in itself.
The benefits of Lean Six Sigma are significant and have been demonstrated in many different industries and enterprises around the world. Lean Six Sigmas most significant results are the impact to customer satisfaction and the financial returns that result from the optimization of processes and the elimination of defects. From its application, many notable companies report improved market share and financial results. But most importantly in relation to healthcare, these companies also report major changes in the underlying corporate cultures. This cultural change towards objective, data-driven decision-making, coupled with a process orientation in problem solving, has changed the way the companies and their employees approach the management of businesses.
It is the cultural transformation that healthcare is in greatest need. Healthcare service organizations have complex, lengthy processes and thus are particularly prone to fire fighting and living with the resultant inefficiencies. Managers and employees rush from task to task, not completing one before another interrupts them. Serious problem-solving efforts degenerate into sub-optimized patching. Productivity suffers, and managing becomes a constant juggling act of deciding where to allocate overworked people, or which incipient crisis can be ignored for the moment. At best, this leads to situations where employees are continually working around the problems consuming time and resources. At worse, the inefficiency of the organization is poor and chronic fire fighting consumes a sizable portion of the organizations resources. It is impossible to improve when in this constant state of fire fighting.
this whitepaper on Operational Excellence in Healthcare
The tools of Lean Six Sigma help by improving overall operating efficiencies. As a result, reduced defects lead to increased quality and optimizing processes lead to lower cost. And as a result, employees will benefit through the reduced amounts of rework, crisis and associated anxieties, thereby allowing higher levels of job satisfaction and enrichment. The application of the Lean Six Sigma begins a cycle of continuous improvement and change. Cumulatively, the benefit to society as whole will be an improvement in the consistency, predictability and quality to health care itself.
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