As more and more people are realizing the importance of quality in the field of healthcare, the importance of Six Sigma is becoming more popular. Though quality is crucial in all industries, it is a question of life and death in healthcare. Perfection is no longer a choice for healthcare professionals. The application of Six Sigma can help eliminate defects and variations in processes and improve patient care. Defects in healthcare can be long waiting hours, a wrong prescription or incorrect diagnosis.
Six Sigma is a management tool used in organizations to improve the processes and reduce errors. Although it requires a great deal of time and effort to implement Six Sigma at hospitals, it is integral for improving the quality of healthcare. The medical errors can damage the reputation of the concerned employees, the organization and even the government.
Applying DMAIC principles in healthcare
Implementing Six Sigma in healthcare can improve the quality of service and also ensure patient satisfaction. Let’s see how the DMAIC principles of Six Sigma can be applied in healthcare:
In the first step, healthcare practitioners need to define the needs of the patients. They must also define the processes involved in the cycle. Defining the needs, expectations and processes will help to understand where they stand at the moment and what are the improvements that they need.
Now, measure the performance of the organization. This can be carried out by setting the performance metrics like service level, clinical excellence and patient satisfaction.
The team must find out the actual cause behind the quality issues. Analyze the data collected for the measurement phase. They can start the improvement phase only after they have found out the problem areas and the causes.
This is the stage when significant changes are implemented in the way of working.
Six Sigma implementation is not a one-time task. It is a methodology that emphasizes continuous improvement. After the implementation, the organization must maintain it and always look for scope for further improvement.
How Six Sigma improves healthcare services
Errors are unavoidable in every industry. But in the healthcare sector, errors can lead to dangerous consequences. As you know, the main aim of Six Sigma is to reduce errors. Following are the main ways in which Six Sigma improves healthcare services:
- Reduces the errors made by healthcare professionals
- Reduce redundancies in the processes
- Improve patient satisfaction
- Reduce waiting time for patients
- Save time and increase profit
- Eliminate variability in processes
Lean Six Sigma in healthcare
Lean is a systematic approach that aims to eliminate the activities that don’t add value to a process. It can be used to reduce the patient waiting time, medication errors, patient’s length of stay and the need for redoing examinations or rescheduling appointments. Such redundancies and waste are costly both in financial terms as well as discomfort and dissatisfaction to the patient. The Lean Six Sigma approach can improve the quality of service and customer satisfaction while reducing the operating costs and increasing profit.
The concrete benefits of applying Lean Six Sigma in healthcare include increasing productivity of healthcare personnel, higher accuracy of laboratory results and increased accuracy of billing processes. Most of the organizations combine Lean and Six Sigma to ensure better results. However, the application of Six Sigma in healthcare can be tough or even fail if there is internal resistance, lack of financial or human resources and lack of leadership. All employees in the organization must realize the importance of Six Sigma and work together if they want to succeed in the mission.
Day by day, the expectations from the healthcare sector are increasing, thereby making it essential for healthcare organizations to meet the needs of healthcare organizations. Implementing Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma will definitely help them to achieve continuous improvement in the quality of service. There is mounting evidence which shows that Six Sigma benefits healthcare organizations in terms of better operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and higher process quality.