Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare




Lean Six Sigma principles are used in various industries to improve process efficiency by eliminating waste and reducing defects. When applied correctly, these methodologies can lead to happier customers and increased revenue.

In the healthcare industry, defects not only affect revenue and customer satisfaction – they can mean the difference between life and death.

Lean Six Sigma methodologies are vitally important in healthcare because they can reduce defects that can result in medical errors. We believe that many healthcare professionals—whether practice managers, hospital administrators, or practitioners—can make a difference in their own organizations by employing Lean Six Sigma principles.

Using Six Sigma to improve healthcare quality can:

  • Shorten wait times in hospitals
  • Prevent falls and injuries in hospitals and nursing homes
  • Reduce medication errors when prescribing and administering drugs or filling prescriptions
  • Increase turnaround time for lab results

Six Sigma can also reduce unnecessary expenses as well. These kinds of results are achievable from healthcare professionals by committing to proven Lean or Six Sigma methodologies. The DMAIC method (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), for instance, focuses on improving existing processes.

One of the most common processes in a hospital setting is the check-in. Here is a summary of how DMAIC could streamline this procedure:

1. Define

  • Define the problems with the process and set goals, can shorter wait times.
  • Develop a process map that details each step, like updating records, reviewing insurance information, collecting co-pays.

2. Measure

  • Measure how the current check-in process is performing and gather data for each step.
  • Identify bottlenecks

3. Analyze

  • Analyze the data collected from each step, looking for elements that can be eliminated or streamlined.
  • Identify the root causes of bottlenecks.

4. Improve

  • Develop and test solutions to improve check-ins.
  • In non-emergencies, can medical/health insurance information be obtained before the patient arrives?
  • Can coordination between doctors and nurses be improved?

5. Control

  • Ensure the new check-in procedure stays on course by frequently monitoring and documenting each improvement.
  • Create a control chart to determine the effectiveness of the new process over time.

Advantage of Six Sigma in Health Care

  • Streamlining the check-in process is only the beginning. From making clinical research more cost-effective to lowering appointment cancellations, there are dozens of successful examples of Lean Six Sigma in healthcare.
  • Employees in quality management, consulting, patient experience, clinical operations, performance improvement, and similar roles can advance into leadership positions in healthcare management with Lean Six Sigma training
  • Healthcare professionals can advance their careers and gain a competitive advantage by completing a high-quality Lean Six Sigma certification program that provides real-world skills and training.