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5 Tips for Applying Six Sigma from Three Top Hospitals

Six Sigma leaders from three of America’s premier healthcare institutions recently shared their experiences with iSixSigma Magazine. They also offered advice for hospitals completing Six Sigma deployments of their own.

A Day in Photos at Virginia Mason Medical Center

In June, an iSixSigma reporter visited Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle to see how the the hospital’s process improvement program is helping to shape the patient experience.

Achieving and Sustaining Improvement in Cardiac Medication

A Six Sigma cardiac medication project was successful in coordinating high-quality care, incorporating advanced technologies, and adopting best practice standards.

Adapting GE’s Lessons to Healthcare

All healthcare stakeholders, from the board on down, want to find ways to make their organizations perform better. Having tried and failed to find the holy grail within their own industry, providers are now looking beyond the health care field to other industries for best practices in managing both cost and quality.

Addressing Six Sigma Concerns From The Skeptics

Regardless of the red flags skeptics attempt to raise, Six Sigma is not a cult or a seventh-grade science project. Even the most ardent Six Sigma fans should view questions from skeptics as a chance to present evidence supporting the use of Six Sigma and change management techniques in healthcare. Six Sigma makes it easier for people to do the right thing by identifying and removing the barriers to excellence.

Applying Six Sigma to Improve Diagnostic Imaging

Six Sigma can help the traditional workflow of diagnostic imaging keep pace with the science delivering better equipment and information systems.

Applying Six Sigma to Patient Care

Six Sigma alone may not be heralded as the savior of healthcare delivery, but its judicious application along clinical lines, combined with the best treatment, technology and expertise available, will certainly improve care for the patient and diminish uncertainty for caregivers.

Attention Six Sigma, You’’re Wanted in Surgery

With the demand for surgical services growing, especially with ambulatory and cosmetic procedures, hospitals continue learning that Six Sigma is a useful tool.

Beyond Tools and Training: Adopting a Systems Approach

Adopting process improvement tools and providing employee training is only part of a winning strategy. Success also requires a combination of committed leadership, unbridled innovation and a comprehensive systems approach.

Blending Process Analytical Technology and Six Sigma

The process analytical technology (PAT) approach encourages manufacturers to re-think their systems strategy both for infrastructure and applications integration. Lean Six Sigma provides a bevy of tools to make this possible.

Breaking the Bar Code Myth: A Real Path to Patient Safety

It is time to refute some of the claims about the power of bar codes to deliver gains in patient safety. And, at the same time, reinforce Lean and Six Sigma as significant tools in improving processes that actually can ensure patient safety.

Breakthrough: Do Clinical Research the Six Sigma Way

Pharmaceutical companies have not broadly recognized how process improvement methods can be integrated with clinical research practices. Using Six Sigma can lead to breakthrough improvement of cycle time and error reduction in clinical trials.

Bringing Home the Gold

Covidien's Operational Excellence competition recognizes employee efforts to accelerate improvements and drive down costs.

Case Study: Improving Medical Bill Review Cycle Time

The accounts payable department of a healthcare system completed a Six Sigma project to address the high volume of invoices being processed and to develop a system for monitoring how well new processing-time standards are being met.

Case Study: Improving Purchase Order Process

The accounts payable department of a healthcare system completed a Six Sigma project to address the high volume of invoices being processed and to develop a system for monitoring how well new processing-time standards are being met.

Case Study: Reducing Turnaround Time of Lab Reports in the ICU

Having successfully improved customer satisfaction in its diagnostic clinics, a hospital addresses the next problem area – delays in receiving lab test results for patients in the intensive care unit.

Collecting Ideas for Improvement – ASPIRE

How does an organization begin collecting ideas for improvements? A mid-sized hospital system in northeast Ohio implemented an employee continuous improvement program called ASPIRE.

Communication Strategies for Six Sigma Initiatives

The decision to adopt Six Sigma has been successful in many industries – including healthcare. However, the best plans may go awry if the focus is just on the technical side, without considering cultural and communication aspects of the initiative.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts: Six Sigma Breakthrough

Multi-million dollar savings are generated by 'beating heart' or 'off-pump' coronary artery bypass outcomes.

Creating Customer Delight – A Case Study in Diagnostic Clinics: Part 1 of 3

A chain of medical diagnostic clinics was developed from the ground up. After two years of hectic expansion marked by acquisitions and setting up green field clinics across a number of cities, the chain wanted to improve the turnaround time of patients and customer service.

Creating Customer Delight – A Case Study in Diagnostic Clinics: Part 2 of 3

Almost all organizations identify customer satisfaction as an area for improvement and as key to business success. In this installment of a three-part case study in creating customer delight, a medical diagnostic center tackles patient problems identified through observation and feedback.

Creating Customer Delight – A Case Study in Diagnostic Clinics: Part 3 of 3

In the final installment of this three-part case study, a medical diagnostic clinic reduces the turnaround time of lab reports, improving cycle time for 90 percent of blood tests and increasing customer satisfaction.

Creating Customer Delight – A Case Study in Diagnostic Clinics: Part 4 of 5

In this continuation of a previously published three-part case study, turnaround time in a new centralized laboratory is improved.

Creating Customer Delight – A Case Study in Diagnostic Clinics: Part 5 of 5

In this continuation of a multi-part case study, recurring problems are identified and eliminated at the diagnostic clinics' newly established centralized laboratory.

Decatur Memorial: Better Than Could Be ‘Imagined’

Six Sigma and related methodologies are integral part of the framework for managing change and improving processes at Decatur Memorial Hospital. Results are seen in higher patient and staff satisfaction, greater efficiency and better service quality.

Defects in Healthcare

Last Friday I taught a Lean Leadership class for my healthcare organization. The participants included all levels of support staff, physicians, nurses, anddepartment leaders. They grasped the concepts easily, and we had a lot of fun with the simulation exercise….

DMAIC Model Helps to Establish a Preventive Maintenance Program

A provider of medical equipment, such as EKG machines, used Six Sigma to better detect potential errors in the equipment and prevent them from occurring.

Eight Keys to a Successful Implementation of PACS

With planning, guidance, innovation and patience, the Health Care Corporation of St. John's in Newfoundland, Canada, was able to make a rapid transition in diagnostic imaging from film to picture archiving and communications systems (PACS).

Embedding Six Sigma in the DNA of Virtua Health

The success of any change is enhanced by building a culture of alignment, accountability and acceptance. This is evident in the implementation and deployment of Six Sigma at Virtua Health, a comprehensive healthcare system consisting of four hospitals and headquartered in Marlton, NJ, USA.

Examples of Strategies for Healthcare and Other Services

A new book, Six Sigma Beyond the Factory Floor, examines process improvement in transactional services, including the application of Six Sigma within healthcare, in terms of overall deployment and individual projects.

Florida Hospital’s Message to Physicians About Six Sigma

Improving U.S. healthcare requires a concentrated effort by physicians. The need is to break down traditional boundaries between physicians, administrators and clinicians, and work together to design safer, more effective and efficient systems.

Framing the Need to Improve Health Care Using Six Sigma

Healthcare today is a vast web of complexity and contradiction. It offers astounding advances in technology and treatment, but is overburdened by inefficiencies, errors, resource constraints and other issues that threaten the accessibility and safety of patient care. Six Sigma can make a difference where other methodologies have failed to deliver results.

Giving Clinical Minutes Back to Patients Is a Precious Currency

Support services staff at Heartland Health used Lean Six Sigma to devise a system to better track assets so that caregivers would have more time with patients.

Help for Physicians

I attended a review session for the ASQ certification exam. The subject of physicians came up when we were discussing identification of customers in healthcare.

HMO Formulary Standardization Six Sigma Breakthrough

A healthcare provider used Six Sigma to see if evidence-based medicine could promote a more standardized formulary.

Hospital Project Reduces 'Bed Sores' to an Industry Low

When a Houston hospital found it had a 12 percent incidence of pressure ulcers – exceeding the 7 percent national average – it put a team in place and launched a project to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers by…

How Do We Change in Healthcare?

I have spent the last couple of months banging my head against a wall trying to figure out why one group of employees at one of my implementations just can’t align with a Lean way of life. Each time we…

Ideas for Achieving Higher Reliability in Healthcare

There is general consensus that healthcare is not as safe and reliable as it should be. Professionals are seeking high reliability in healthcare.

Improving a Health System’s Cash Flow Management

As hospitals consolidate resources regionally, a big challenge takes shape: handling the information necessary to manage cash flow efficiently.

Improving ED Wait Times at North Shore University Hospital

North Shore University Hospital initiated a Six Sigma project aimed at improving the patient experience by reducing wait times in its Emergency Department.

Improving Labor and Delivery Triage Turnaround Time

Excessive waiting and poor customer service at a hospital's labor and delivery triage area had existed for years. But a Six Sigma process improvement project team attacked the problem systematically and began resolving it in a matter of months.

Improving Personal Health Using Data and Six Sigma

Six Sigma practitioners, because of their knowledge of statistical analysis and their belief in continuous improvement, are at a particular advantage for using this health data to make positive life changes.

Improving Process Turnaround Time in an Outpatient Clinic

A Six Sigma team at the Hurley Medical Center’s Family Ambulatory Health Center worked to better coordinate patient flow without decreasing time with physicians.

Improving Utilization of Costly Implantables in Cath Lab

To address the increasing cost of implantables in the catheterization lab, a cross-function Six Sigma team was assembled at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital and charged with learning the business and appropriately decreasing high costs.

Increasing Cath Lab Capacity Through Six Sigma

One focal area increasingly targeted for performance improvement in healthcare organizations has been the cardiac cath lab.

Interview With Nick Nauman, MBB At Commonwealth Health

As one of three Six Sigma Master Black Belts at Commonwealth Health Corporation (CHC) in Kentucky, Nick Nauman mentors 35 Green Belts. At the time of this interview, CHC's team had a total of approximately 180 completed or ongoing Six Sigma projects throughout the institution, focused on a range of issues involving both operational and clinical improvement.

Is Healthcare the Next Big Thing?

I’ve had a lot pf people asking me about healthcare lately. As in, “Now that big corporations and the automotive companiesare reeling, with the stimulus coming and promises of healthcare reform, isn’t it a great time to move out of…

Is Lean the Secret to Curing Healthcare?

Former ThedaCare CEO and president Dr. John Toussaint thinks lean can cure healthcare. He's prescribing Lean to change the culture in healthcare - from shame and blame to using data to make decisions.

Issues and Solutions for Today’s Emergency Department

Some hospitals are finding new ways to overcome the emergency department challenges and create safer, more efficient environments. A growing number of hospitals are taking steps to identify and remove bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the system. As a result, they're seeing a positive impact on patients, staff, and the bottom line.

Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare: What Not to Say

Here's a list of things you should NEVER say when discussing Lean Six Sigma with healthcare providers.

Leveraging Six Sigma to Improve Hospital Bed Availability

This article documents a Six Sigma project to reduce the time between when a discharge order is written for a patient and when that hospital bed becomes available again.

LSS Streamlines OR at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center

Thibodaux Regional Medical Center successfully used LSS initiatives to improve their operating rooms. Delays were common in the perioperative environment and turnover times between surgical cases impacted surgeon satisfaction and services available.

Making an Easier Migration From Film/Paper to a PACS

To reduce costs, improve patient care, maximize resources and thrive in a competitive environment, healthcare providers are moving toward digitization - that includes the use of a picture archiving and communications system for diagnostic imaging.

McKesson Corporation

McKesson is the largest pharmaceuticals distributor in the United States. While they do not manufacture drugs or supply healthcare services, they are the leading provider of supply, information, and care management products to the entire healthcare industry.

Measuring Six Sigma Results in the Healthcare Industry

In 1998 an oft-cited article asked, "Is Health Care Ready for Six Sigma?" After a half-dozen years of Six Sigma experience since, it is clear that the healthcare industry has answered the question. Healthcare was ready for Six Sigma.

Medical Transcription Six Sigma Case Study

This case study is an example of a Six Sigma breakthrough improvement in a Medical Transcription company in India.

News Roundup: New Book on UCLA Health System’s Operational Excellence Journey; Black Belt Milstead Becomes VP at HealthAmerica

Recent news from Lean Six Sigma use in healthcare includes the release of a new book detailing UCLA Health System’s path to operational excellence and the appointment of a Black Belt to a leadership role within a health insurance organization.

Outpatient Imaging Reports TAT Cut from 64 to 9 Hours

With the help of Six Sigma, an outpatient imaging center identifies the root cause of slow report turnaround times and improves performance to a better-than-industry standard.

Patient Management Scorecard Checks Health of Hospital

A patient management scorecard presents a comprehensive framework that helps healthcare managers to define strategies, track performance and provide information to show whether their institution is performing well in terms of its mission.

Patient Puzzler: Out-Of-Control Patient Collections

Are hospital patient collections out of control, or is the accounts receivable process working properly? Test your knowledge on this iSixSigma Healthcare patient puzzle.

Pharmaceuticals: Compliance Not a True Quality Practice

Quality practices in the pharmaceuticals industry today are what they were in other industries 15 to 20 years ago. It is time to catch up. And Six Sigma is just the opportunity for operations and quality professionals to modernize quality practices.

Physician, Heal Thyself!

What makes some physicians so difficult to convince of the need for change? I’m talking aboutphysicians who are extremely unhappy with the current state. They complain to anyone who will listen. They threaten to take their patient volume elsewhere. They…

Profile in Six Sigma Leadership: James G. Springfield

James G. Springfield, president and CEO of Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen, Texas (USA), shares his thoughts on the concerns of healthcare administrators today and his vision of healthcare's future. His views offer a profile in Six Sigma leadership.

Quest Diagnostics CFO Speaks Lean Six Sigma

Bob Hagemann, CFO and VP of Quest Diagnostics, recently spoke about the company at the Wachovia Healthcare Conference. During the presentation he touched on Six Sigma.

Reduce and Optimize Hospital Noise with Six Sigma Tools

Because hospital noise impacts patient recovery, hospitals must be quiet and calm. Hospitals must identify noise factors and discern which sources of noise are controllable. They can then use Six Sigma tools to measure, monitor and reduce noise.

Reducing Admitting Delays by Improving Bed Management

Causes of admitting delays are addressed to meet a hospital's goal to be where employees want to work, patients want to receive care and physicians want to practice.

Reducing Avoidable Cancellations on the Day of Surgery

To accommodate growth in surgical service without adding resources, a Six Sigma team at Deaconess Hospital takes aim at reducing the number of same day surgical cancellations.

Reducing Contaminated Needle Sticks in a Healthcare System Using Six Sigma

In 2000, Broward Health’s Environment of Care (EoC) Key Group, the organization’s corporate-level safety committee, challenged the healthcare system to reduce contaminated needle sticks. The effort followed the Six Sigma DMAIC roadmap.

Reducing Delayed Starts in Specials Lab with Six Sigma

A hospital's Specials Department project improved start times, increased throughput, implemented control mechanisms for continuous improvement and more.

Reducing Delays in the Cardiac Cath Lab with Six Sigma: An iSixSigma Case Study

New York-Presbyterian Hospital embarked on an initiative to improve throughput in its three cardiac cath labs.

Reducing Door-to-inflation Time for the AMI Patient

At Deaconess Health System a Six Sigma team undertakes a door-to-inflation project to improve the throughput process for patients with acute myocardial infarction.

Revamping Healthcare Using DMAIC And DFSS

Evidence pointing to the applicability of Six Sigma and related best practices within healthcare has been steadily mounting over the past few years.

Roadmap Improves Radiology Processes

A radiology department faced challenges with workflow and patient flow. After an assessment of the department that identified opportunities for improvement, the team began to chart a prudent course for the future with the help of a roadmap.

Six Sigma and Healthcare – An Oxymoron?

Perhaps we should not start a DMAIC project with a very low Zst score - we should do a standard work project first.

Six Sigma at Baxter Healthcare

The article Six Sigma, the Baxter Way at features an interview with Allen Harmon, the director of operations at Baxter’s Biologics facility in Hayward, California. The question/answer session reveals details on how this Baxter facility is using Six Sigma…

Six Sigma at Cardinal Health

Cardinal Health has been busy with Lean Six Sigma. Their second quarter earnings release highlighted their progress to date

Six Sigma at Express Scripts

Their value proposition: “To reduce pharmacy costs, without compromising health outcomes, while maximizing patient satisfaction.”

Six Sigma at New York-Presbyterian Hospital

In their first year NYP completed 130 Six Sigma projects and saw over 50 million dollars in savings.

Six Sigma at Quest Diagnostics

Quest Diagnostics are early pioneers of Six Sigma in the healthcare industry, implementing the methodology in May 2000.

Six Sigma Catapults Hospitals to Next Level of Quality

Many hospitals are embarking on a cultural change using Six Sigma concepts and principles to catapult themselves into a higher dimension of quality.

Six Sigma Convert Offers Views on Healthcare Leadership

Managing and communicating with employees from one end of the hospital to the other requires skill and a prescription for making improvements. Employees want a coach and they want to own the process, like Six Sigma, for creating change.

Six Sigma Improves Workflow in N-Medicine Department

The well-regarded nuclear medicine department located in the Ospedale Santa Croce e Carle profits from a Six Sigma continuous improvement project.

Six Sigma in the Healthcare Industry

The Healthcare Sector includes the following Fortune 1000 industries: Medical Products & Equipment, Pharmacy and Other Services, Healthcare-Medical Facilities, and Wholesalers-Healthcare. The Healthcare-Insurance industry is included in the Insurance Industry List. Fortune 1000 Healthcare Companies practicing Six Sigma: Bausch &…

Six Sigma is Out for Blood!

Blood Systems Laboratories, a division of Blood Systems, is the second largest blood testing company in the United States (second only to the Red Cross). They launched a Six Sigma program early in 2004. The Blood Systems 2005 Annual Report…

Six Sigma Meets IT at McKesson

Last Week, Ben Worthen, of The Wall Street Journal, interviewed Randall Spratt, chief information officer at McKesson Corp. McKesson was one of the pioneer healthcare companies to use Six Sigma, starting in 1999 and still going strong today.

Six Sigma Trims Turnover Time for Orthopedic Surgeries

A Six Sigma project was assembled when surgeons at a Houston hospital expressed dissatisfaction with the length of time required to prepare the OR between cases.

Six Sigma: A Powerful Strategy for Healthcare Providers

Six Sigma is not for the faint-hearted. It is a challenging strategy to master and execute in for-profit businesses, but even more difficult in the healthcare industry with constraints such as high barriers between the different professional groups, the lack of funds, understaffed and overworked employees, and individualized work procedures that are rarely managed or controlled.

Six Sigma…Without The Pain, For Healthcare

What is clear is that Six Sigma can drive bigger improvements in patient care and cost reduction, and potentially, do it faster. In the handful of hospitals that have successfully implemented Six Sigma, the results are impressive.

Solving the Dilemma Created by the No-Show Patient

Patients who fail to show up for their exams interrupt the scheduling process and disrupt the delivery system. Healthcare facilities must control no-shows to realize process efficiencies and minimize missed revenue opportunities.

Southcoast Health System Sees Benefits from Lean and Six Sigma

Director of Quality Outcomes Nidia Williams explains how the deployment in this three-hospital organization has evolved in the past two years.

Starting the First Surgical Case on Time to Cut Delays

In this Six Sigma case study, a medical center tackles delays in its surgical schedule by focusing on the first case of the day.

Statistics Can Reduce Process Variability and Costs in Radiology

Measurable improvements in radiology added up to greater efficiency and better quality. In this study, staffing was reduced by 14 full-time equivalents, entirely through attrition; identification errors were reduced through bar coding, and processes were improved.

Strategies for Improving Patient Safety in the Hospital

The healthcare industry is behind other high-risk industries in ensuring basic safety and valuable lessons can be learned from those who are achieving industry excellence.

Streamlining Diagnostic Testing at Northwestern Memorial

Results were dramatic when Northwestern Memorial Hospital applied Six Sigma to long wait times in its diagnostic testing center.

Study Shows Physician Involvement in Improvement Projects Helps Sustain Changes

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Research Network and the American College of Physicians released a study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Physicians (JABFM) in September showing how including both physicians and non-physicians on process improvement teams can help better facilitate change management, according to an article by David Mitchell of AAFP News Now.

Surmounting Staff Scheduling at Valley Baptist Health System

Six Sigma at Valley Baptist Health System has begun to foster a culture that embraces the voice of the customer, breaks down barriers to change and raises performance expectations.

The Influence of Empowering Healthcare Workers

This success story from the Lean deployment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America shows how front-line workers can lead improvement efforts.

Using Lean Six Sigma to Achieve NCQA Certification

Process improvement tools can be used to support the NCQA accreditation's organizational planning phase and to make positive changes to patient service.

Using Six Sigma to Improve Clinical Quality and Outcomes

These are four examples where Six Sigma can impact in clinical areas such as infection control and medication delivery.

Using Six Sigma to Reduce Pressure Ulcers at a Hospital

A medical center used Six Sigma to reduce nosocomial pressure ulcers by 60 percent, improving patient care and resulting in an annual cost avoidance of $300,000.

UVA Reduces CPT Coding Errors With Six Sigma

The mysteries of CPT coding errors in the pulmonary medicine department at University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center were solved by a Six Sigma Black Belt detective who looked for hard evidence of what went wrong and why. Were coding errors correlated with the time of day, day of the week, or workload? Was something amiss in the physician/coder interaction that produced the code? Were errors related to some fundamental misunderstanding of a specific type of code that caused consistent overcoding or undercoding? This case study examines how the DMAIC process helped solve the problems.

What To Do When The Low-Hanging Fruit Is Gone

This article provides an example of how an operational department (like a cardiac catheterization lab) can be transformed from a low sigma level to a higher sigma level, and what that would mean to the overall organization.

Will Medicare Force Hospitals to Go Six Sigma?

I was driving to pick up my daughter from school yesterday when a story on National Public Radio (NPR) caught my attention. I only heard the end of the segment on the radio, but from what I could tell Medicare…

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