Advance in Healthcare with Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma principles are used in a range of 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 critically important in healthcare because they can reduce defects that can result in medical errors. Medical errors in the United States contribute to the deaths of more than 210,000 people annually and cost the healthcare industry an estimated $17.1 billion each year.
Many federal agencies have attempted to address this problem on a national scale by passing legislation and imposing regulations. However, 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 and private practices
- 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. Healthcare professionals can achieve these kinds of results 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:
- Define the problems with the process and set goals, e.g., shorter wait times.
- Develop a process map that details each step, e.g., updating records, reviewing insurance information, collecting co-pays.
- Measure how the current check-in process is performing and gather data for each step.
- Identify bottlenecks—where is the process slowing down?
- Analyze the data collected from each step, looking for elements that can be eliminated or streamlined.
- Identify the root causes of bottlenecks.
- Develop and test solutions to improve check-ins. In non-emergencies, can insurance information be obtained before the patient arrives? Can coordination between doctors and nurses be improved?
- 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.
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. For this reason, healthcare professionals with Lean Six Sigma certifications are in demand. 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.
Job titles that commonly require LSS certifications include:
- Chief Patient Experience Officer
- Senior Director, Patient Experience
- Senior Manager, Operational Excellence
- Vice President, Quality
- Director, Quality
- Director of Quality Management
- Associate Vice President, Strategic Process Improvement
- Quality Improvement Consultant
- Process Consultant
- Clinical Transformation Consultant
How to earn certification in Lean Six Sigma healthcare:
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. Many leadership roles in the healthcare industry require a Green Belt or Black Belt certificate. Green Belt holders are well-versed in LSS methodologies and can oversee some projects, or assist Black Belt holders, who are qualified to manage high-level projects.
Purdue University’s Lean Six Sigma program offers health care professionals a seamless progression from Green Belt certification to Black Belt certification with the added benefit of a course in Lean Principles. The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certificate can be completed online in as few as 10 weeks. Healthcare professionals who progress to the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certificate program have the opportunity to conduct a Black Belt project at their organization, using the skills they have mastered in their Green Belt and Lean courses.